Post List

  • July 30, 2016
  • 05:55 AM

5 things we learned this week | open-access science week 30, 2016

by TakFurTheKaffe in Tak Fur The Kaffe

Finding flight MH370, origins of human speech, declining penguin colonies, safe carbon storage, and stressed out reef sharks: Here are five of the latest scientific studies published open-access this week.... Read more »

Jansen, E., Coppini, G., & Pinardi, N. (2016) Drift simulation of MH370 debris using superensemble techniques. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences, 16(7), 1623-1628. DOI: 10.5194/nhess-16-1623-2016  

Lameira, A., Hardus, M., Mielke, A., Wich, S., & Shumaker, R. (2016) Vocal fold control beyond the species-specific repertoire in an orang-utan. Scientific Reports, 30315. DOI: 10.1038/srep30315  

Kampman, N., Busch, A., Bertier, P., Snippe, J., Hangx, S., Pipich, V., Di, Z., Rother, G., Harrington, J., Evans, J.... (2016) Observational evidence confirms modelling of the long-term integrity of CO2-reservoir caprocks. Nature Communications, 12268. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12268  

Mourier, J., Maynard, J., Parravicini, V., Ballesta, L., Clua, E., Domeier, M., & Planes, S. (2016) Extreme Inverted Trophic Pyramid of Reef Sharks Supported by Spawning Groupers. Current Biology. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.05.058  

  • July 30, 2016
  • 03:32 AM

More scientific flesh on the bones of non-coeliac gluten/wheat sensitivity

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I was really, really pleased to read the paper by Melanie Uhde and colleagues [1] (open-access) I don't mind telling you. Covering a topic close to my blogging and research heart - sensitivity to wheat or gluten but not coeliac disease - the authors provide some much needed scientific clarification when it comes to how gluten or wheat might impact on some of those "who reported symptoms in response to wheat intake and in whom coeliac disease and wheat allergy were ruled out." Some media interest in the paper can also be seen here.With an authorship list including some of the great and good on this issue (see here for example) researchers included 80 participants presenting with non-coeliac wheat sensitivity (NCWS) according to "criteria recently proposed by an expert group" [2]. These NCWS participants reported "experiencing intestinal and/or extraintestinal symptoms after ingestion of gluten-containing foods, including wheat, rye or barley. The reported symptoms in all subjects improved or disappeared when those foods were withdrawn for a period of 6 months, and recurred when they were re-introduced for a period of up to 1 month." All 80 provided serum samples for analysis that were compared with similar samples from 40 participants with "biopsy-proven active coeliac disease" and 40 samples from asymptomatic controls on a non-restrictive diet.The sort of information sought from those serum samples included quite a bit. Not only were "established markers" of coeliac disease (CD) assayed for - including IgA antibody to TG2 - but various immunological markers towards gluten were also included for study. Based also on the idea that "intestinal cell damage and systemic immune response to microbial components" might be an important feature of NCWS, researchers also markers associated with "compromised intestinal epithelial barrier integrity."Results: well, as per the media interest in this paper: "The findings suggest that these individuals [with NCWS] have a weakened intestinal barrier, which leads to a body-wide inflammatory immune response."A few further details are worthwhile discussing. First, the genetics of coeliac disease (those DQ2 and/or DQ8 heterodimers) were present in about a quarter of those with NCWS "a rate not substantially different than in the general population." Second, most of those with NCWS did not show the characteristic mucosal signs of CD as per the Marsh gradings (0 or 1) throughout the cohort. This was in direct contrast to the CD participants who all "expressed HLA DQ2 and/or DQ8 and presented with Marsh 3 grade intestinal histological findings." The conclusion: CD and NCWS participants are not one and the same (just in case you needed telling).Next: "Serum levels of both LBP [lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-binding protein (LBP)] and sCD14 were significantly elevated in individuals with NCWS in comparison with patients with coeliac disease and healthy individuals." This implies that there is 'systemic immune activation' on-going in those participants with NCWS not seen to the same extent in the other groups. These findings were also complemented by results indicative of that compromised intestinal epithelial barrier integrity previously discussed. The final picture emerging being one where NCWS participants seem to be in a state of 'immune activation' "linked to increased translocation of microbial and dietary components from the gut into circulation, in part due to intestinal cell damage and weakening of the intestinal barrier." I might add that some smaller scale analysis of serum samples from those NCWS participants "both before and after 6 months of a self-monitored diet free of wheat, rye and barley" suggested "a significant decline in the markers of immune activation and gut epithelial cell damage, in conjunction with the improvement of symptoms."And rest.For those as interested in this area of research as I am, I'm sure that you can understand my happiness in seeing the Uhde results and what it might mean for many, many people who've been perhaps been 'fobbed off' down the years with regards to their gluten ills. I can't help but see a possible connection between these findings and others reported with autism in mind for example (see here and see here). The added suggestion that 'intestinal cell damage' might be a feature of NCWS also possibly ties in with all that talk about 'leaky gut' and some autism (see here) but I don't doubt it may go well beyond just [some] autism [3]. Not looking so tree-hugging now eh?Of course there is more to do in this area: "Further research is needed to investigate the mechanism responsible for the intestinal damage and breach of the epithelial barrier, assess the potential use of the identified immune markers for the diagnosis of affected individuals and/or monitoring the response to specific treatment strategies, and examine potential therapies to counter epithelial cell damage and systemic immune activation in affected individuals." I might also add in a role for those trillions of wee beasties that call our gut home (the gut microbiota) as potentially also being a target for further scientific research too (see here for example).I await further studies...----------[1] Uhde M. et al. Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease. Gut. 2016. July 25.[2] Catassi C. et al. Diagnosis of Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS): The Salerno Experts’ Criteria. Nutrients. 2015;7(6):4966-4977.[3] Whiteley P. Nutritional management of (some) autism: a case for gluten- and casein-free diets? Proc Nutr Soc. 2015 Aug;74(3):202-7.----------Uhde, M., Ajamian, M., Caio, G., De Giorgio, R., Indart, A., Green, P., Verna, E., Volta, U., & Alaedini, A. (2016). Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease Gut DOI: 10.1136/gutjnl-2016-311964... Read more »

  • July 29, 2016
  • 03:55 PM

Breastfeeding associated with better brain development and neurocognitive outcomes

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

A new study, which followed 180 preterm infants from birth to age seven, found that babies who were fed more breast milk within the first 28 days of life had had larger volumes of certain regions of the brain at term equivalent and had better IQs, academic achievement, working memory, and motor function.

... Read more »

Mandy B. Belfort, MD, Peter J. Anderson, PhD, Victoria A. Nowak, MBBS, Katherine J. Lee, PhD, Charlotte Molesworth, Deanne K. Thompson, PhD, Lex W. Doyle, MD, & Terrie E. Inder, MBChB, MD. (2016) Breast Milk Feeding, Brain Development, and Neurocognitive Outcomes: A 7-Year Longitudinal Study in Infants Born at Less Than 30 Weeks' Gestation. The Journal of Pediatrics. DOI:  

  • July 29, 2016
  • 11:22 AM

Elite Cyclists and Brain Fatigue Resistance

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

In a Brain Post from 2012 I reviewed a study of fatigue in elite athletic performance. This study supported a key role in the brain insula in regulating the perception of exercise-induced fatigue. You can access this post by clicking HERE.An update on this topic was recently published in PloS One by a research team in Australia.This study compared performance on a cognitive task after extreme 20 minute cycling time trial. Professional cyclists were compared to recreational cyclists on the Stroop test that requires inhibitory control.The results of the study were that elite cyclists performed significantly better on the Stroop test (more correct responses) following exercise than non-elite cyclists. This is indicative of a greater resistance effects of fatigue on brain performance.The authors note in the discussion section:"These finding suggest that successful endurance performance may require superior inhibitory control and resistance to mental fatigue."This resistance to mental fatigue at high levels of exercise may be a key component in successful performance at the elite level.Inhibitory control has been shown to have a significant genetic association and to be stable over time. It is possible that training interacts with genetic factors to produce brain fatigue resistance in the elite cyclist population.Readers with more interest in this topic can access the free full-text research manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Follow the author on Twitter HERE.Photo of non-elite cyclist participating in triathlon is from the author's files. Martin K, Staiano W, Menaspà P, Hennessey T, Marcora S, Keegan R, Thompson KG, Martin D, Halson S, & Rattray B (2016). Superior Inhibitory Control and Resistance to Mental Fatigue in Professional Road Cyclists. PloS one, 11 (7) PMID: 27441380... Read more »

Martin K, Staiano W, Menaspà P, Hennessey T, Marcora S, Keegan R, Thompson KG, Martin D, Halson S, & Rattray B. (2016) Superior Inhibitory Control and Resistance to Mental Fatigue in Professional Road Cyclists. PloS one, 11(7). PMID: 27441380  

  • July 29, 2016
  • 08:00 AM

Friday Fellow: Royal sea star

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll In order to celebrate the 5oth Friday Fellow, which was posted today, I decided to bring you an extra Friday Fellow! Afterall, there are plenty of interesting lifeforms to be shown. As I have never presented … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • July 29, 2016
  • 07:00 AM

Friday Fellow: Cute bee fly

by Piter Boll in Earthling Nature

by Piter Kehoma Boll Recently the appearance of a new pokémon, Cutiefly, has brought a lot of attention to the real world species in which it is based. So why not bring it to Friday Fellow so that you may … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • July 29, 2016
  • 04:20 AM

Pregnancy multivitamins 'are a waste of money' (except when they're not)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Science headlines eh? Who would trust them and their sometimes inflated press releases?I start today with a science headline taken from the BBC website reading: "Pregnancy multivitamins 'are a waste of money'" based on the findings of a review article [1] published in the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.In it we are told that complex multi-vitamin and mineral supplements are 'unlikely to be needed and are an unnecessary expense' during the nine months that made us. Further that certain vitamins are not indicated for supplementation during pregnancy including that contributory to excess vitamin A. All pregnant women have to do, we are told is "to have a healthy, varied diet including fresh fruit and vegetables" and avoid the old phrase 'eating for two'. What could be simpler?The irony behind such findings and those BBC and other media headlines is that although one needs to be careful about one's vitamin and mineral intake (treat them as what they are, medicines) there is a long tradition of vitamin supplementation being indicated when it comes to that special time called pregnancy. Indeed, and I quote from the BBC article: "pregnant women should make sure they take folic acid and vitamin D, as well as eating a well-balanced diet, as per NHS guidelines, they add."So let me get this straight: don't take a multi-vitamin supplement but makes sure that you take a (multi) supplement containing folic acid and vitamin D? You can perhaps see how confusing such headlines are and how grandiose ideas that every woman pre-conceptual and during pregnancy is feasting down on 5-a-day (or even 8-a-day if you actually believe it will make you happier!) are not necessarily based in reality. We would all love to think that important health messages about maternal fruit and vegetable consumption during pregnancy for example, are being heard loud and clear but the reality is that they aren't for everyone. The reality is that people are using vitamin and mineral supplements to supplement their dietary needs for whatever reasons and headlines further confusing the population about such supplementation being a 'waste of money' is only likely to put more people off using them without perhaps giving greater thought about the ways and means to help people alter their diet accordingly. The net result: more pregnant women potentially becoming deficient in certain core nutrients during pregnancy and more potential effects/risks for her and her offspring.I do have a bee in my bonnet about this issue because time after time the research evidence points to how important pregnancy nutrition is for a variety of maternal and offspring outcomes [2]. Outside of folic acid and vitamin D, various other nutrients are also pretty important during pregnancy (i.e. iodine - 'good for baby, good for the economy') and the unfortunate reality is that most people can't or don't get enough of them from their diet alone. The late David Barker was a pioneer in the area of foetal programming including that related to pregnancy nutrition; one can only wonder what he would make of the suggestion that universally, supplementary multivitamin use during pregnancy is a 'waste of money'?And finally, you want more people to eat fruit and vegetables? Don't focus too much on just price and positioning at the supermarket, focus on home economics (or just cookery!) classes at school [3] for starters and make fruit and vegetables interesting...----------[1] Vitamin supplementation in pregnancy. Drug & Therapeutics Bulletin. 2016. July 11.[2] Harding JE. The nutritional basis of the fetal origins of adult disease. Int J Epidemiol. 2001 Feb;30(1):15-23.[3] McMorrow L. et al. Perceived barriers towards healthy eating and their association with fruit and vegetable consumption. J Public Health (Oxf). 2016 May 24.----------Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (2016). Vitamin supplementation in pregnancy Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin DOI: 10.1136/dtb.2016.7.0414... Read more »

Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. (2016) Vitamin supplementation in pregnancy. Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin. DOI: 10.1136/dtb.2016.7.0414  

  • July 28, 2016
  • 03:23 PM

Why do antidepressants take so long to work?

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Medication roulette, if you have ever had to deal with depression or other types of mental illness you know what I'm talking about. You take a pill that could help or could cause all sorts of horrid side effects. You cross your fingers as you take that first pill and in the 4-6 weeks it takes to start working you cross your fingers, hope, wish and probably even dread the outcome. But why does it take so long for antidepressants to start working in the first place and what could be done to change that?

... Read more »

  • July 28, 2016
  • 12:48 PM

Space disturbs the heart-related system and increases the chances of death

by Usman Paracha in SayPeople

Main Point:

Deep space missions could increase the chances of cardiovascular diseases, thereby increasing the chances of deaths in astronauts.

Published in:

Scientific Reports

Study Further:

NASA’s Apollo program sent 9 manned missions and 24 astronauts above the low Earth orbit (LEO) during decades of 1960s and 1970s. Those missions also included Apollo 11, which was used to take Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the moon. However, it appears that such beyond Earth missions have their own problems.

A 1969 crew portrait of Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, left, Michael Collins, centre, and Buzz Aldrin. (Photograph: AP-Nasa)
A 1969 crew portrait of Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong, left, Michael Collins, centre, and Buzz Aldrin. (Photograph: AP-Nasa)
In a study, researchers worked on the fate of Apollo astronauts and found that the chances of death from cardiovascular diseases is 4-5 times more than that found for astronauts of the same time, who only went in low Earth orbits, or never went to any orbital mission. Researchers found that the Earth’s magnetic field is protective to human body and moving beyond that protective field could result in long-lasting damage to the cardiovascular system, and deep space radiation is one of the most important reasons in that damage. Various radiations and radiation sources are present in the space such as galactic cosmic rays, radiation in the Van Allen belts, and solar particle events. Protons are among the most abundant type of radiation in space. All these start affecting the body, especially cardiovascular system of astronauts.

Although the sample size of the study is small, the results show that about 45% of the Apollo astronauts died from cardiovascular problems as compared to only 11% of low Earth orbit astronauts and 9% of non-flight astronauts. Researchers found that the rate of death from cardiovascular diseases can be compared to that of the general population, but it could be due to very fit and healthy body of astronauts and the presence of diseased conditions in general public.

Heart related system (Source: FDA)
Heart related system (Source: FDA)
“In summary, results from the present study reveal that Apollo lunar astronauts have a significantly higher mortality rate due to CVD (cardiovascular disease) than either the cohort of astronauts who never flew an orbital space mission or astronauts who never flew beyond LEO (low Earth orbit),” Researchers noted in the study.

This is the first study to look at the long-term health consequences of people moving out into deep space. It has important implications for future space missions as many space agencies with NASA are planning to move to the moon and beyond the moon to the Mars by the decade 2030.

Space missions (Image source: NASA)
Space missions (Image source: NASA)

Delp, M., Charvat, J., Limoli, C., Globus, R., & Ghosh, P. (2016). Apollo Lunar Astronauts Show Higher Cardiovascular Disease Mortality: Possible Deep Space Radiation Effects on the Vascular Endothelium Scientific Reports, 6 DOI: 10.1038/srep29901... Read more »

  • July 28, 2016
  • 08:34 AM

Game of Farmers: Agriculture is coming

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Gron gazed across the plain from inside a tuft of long grass. There. Just in front of the far hillock. Gazelles. Meals on legs. He vaguely remembered mother carrying him through cooler forests when he was not yet old enough to walk. He had never understood why they had left. But he had learned, had […]... Read more »

Zeder MA. (2008) Domestication and early agriculture in the Mediterranean Basin: Origins, diffusion, and impact. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105(33), 11597-604. PMID: 18697943  

Lazaridis, I., Nadel, D., Rollefson, G., Merrett, D., Rohland, N., Mallick, S., Fernandes, D., Novak, M., Gamarra, B., Sirak, K.... (2016) Genomic insights into the origin of farming in the ancient Near East. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature19310  

  • July 28, 2016
  • 03:49 AM

Autism in adults in the UK continued

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Traolach Brugha and colleagues [1] makes for some blogging fodder today and the suggestion that: "The combined prevalence of autism in adults of all ages in England was 11/1000."Just before going through the Brugha paper it is perhaps appropriate to put it into some context based on other work from this group previously covered on this blog (see here) and the findings again by Brugha and colleagues [2] (a further report on their findings that time around can be seen here).On that last occasion published in 2011, the estimated prevalence of adult autism in the UK - living in the community - was reported on, arriving at a figure of 9.8/1000. That finding was based on data from the 2007 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS) and whilst important, was not without it's methodological weaknesses including the fact that: "Sampling excluded institutional residents and adults with intellectual disability severe enough to prevent them from participating in the assessment." I'll come back to the 'weakness' issues shortly also with one of the screening instruments in mind...Anyhow, the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (2007) once again formed the basis for the recent paper by Brugha added to "a population case-register survey of 290 adults with intellectual disability". Those additional 290 adults have already been discussed in another publication from this group (see here) and were collectively termed the IDCR cohort (Intellectual Disability Case Register study). I have to admit that at first I thought it was the 2014 reincarnation of the APMS that formed the bulk of the data for this latest paper - data from the publication of which is due out soon - but this was not the case as we are told that: "The sample from the first general population study was extended with the inclusion of representative samples of adults with intellectual disability omitted from the earlier survey" i.e. those additional 290 adults included as part of the IDCR study. The value added bit to the latest Brugha paper was the inclusion of adults both living in both private households or in communal care both "sampled from learning disability case registers."The 2-stage screening affair held with the 2007 APMS cohort where the the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) - the AQ20 - was the starting point, followed by the ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule) (module 4) as and when required. ADOS module 1 was actually the preferred assessment scheme for those IDCR study participants (module 1 "is designed for individuals who do not consistently use phrase speech") and the AQ initial screen did not seem to figure.The results: well, I've already indicated that the estimated prevalence was around 1.1% of the adult population, up from the previous 0.9% estimate. This was based on "14 men and 4 women with autism in the APMS subsample, and 49 men and 40 women with autism in the IDCR subsample." It should be noted that of the original 290 participants interviewed from the IDCR cohort, only 276 were eventually assessed for autism as a consequence of some presenting with quite profound difficulties not conducive to a "confident assessment".The authors report that estimated autism prevalence was higher in those with moderate to profound learning (intellectual) disability and that there was a 'gradient' of autism prevalence by learning disability status. A quote by the authors relays this finding perfectly: "almost two in five adults with moderate to profound intellectual disability had autism." Indeed, the link between autism and learning disability is something that has also been discussed in recent posts (see here) on this blog. Authors also observed that: "Male gender was a strong predictor of autism only in those with no or mild intellectual disability" so highlighting how the gender ratio for autism in those with moderate or profound intellectual disability was nowhere near the traditional 4:1 ratio commonly touted.Although important data filling a very important gap in terms of the estimated adult prevalence of autism here in Blighty, I would like to return to the potential 'weakness' aspect of the last and latest Brugha papers. For those who follow this blog you'll probably know that I have a few issues with one of the primary screening instruments put forward with 'autistic traits' in mind: the Autism Spectrum Quotient (AQ). It's nothing personal when it comes to my growing unease with the instrument but in these days of the 'are you autistic?' pop psychology survey (see here) I'm not convinced that (a) it is all that reliable as an accurate screening measure [3] for autism and (b) that it is specifically 'tuned into autism' at the expense of other possible diagnoses (see here). The fact that the AQ20 was the first stage screener for those potentially requiring subsequent ADOS-ing at least in the APMS 2007 cohort does bring into question exactly how accurate the Brugha findings are in terms of the final estimated prevalence of adult autism among those where learning disability does not feature. Indeed, even the authors in a further relevant publication have even questioned their 2-stage methodology used [4]: "The AQ-20 was only a weak predictor of ADOS-4 cases." Hmm.To reiterate, I don't want to come down to hard on the Brugha findings because they are some of the best data we currently have when it comes to estimates of numbers of cases of adult autism in the UK. The fact that the data - systematically collected on this and the previous testing occasion - seemed to be pointing towards a significant role for learning disability when it comes to autism alongside an increase in cases when this factor is taken into consideration also plays into all those debates about whether autism is truly on the rise (see here) and what further planning and resources are going to be needed in future years. It is however only with time and continued monitoring that we will see what trends become apparent with regards to autism prevalence in adults here in the UK and what more we will see when APMS 2014 finally begins to report...To close, having watched the fantastic film Ant-Man with my brood recently, we're never going to look at Thomas the Tank Engine in quite the same light...----------[1] Brugha TS. et al. Epidemiology of autism in adults across age groups and ability levels. Br J Psychiatry. 2016 Jul 7.[2] Brugha TS. et al. Epidemiology of autism spectrum disorders in adults in the community in England. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011 May;68(5):459-65.[3] Ashwood KL. et al. Predicting the diagnosis of autism in adults using the Autism-Spectrum Quotient (AQ) questionnaire. Psychol Med. 2016 Jun 29:1-10.[4] Brugha TS. et al. Validating two survey methods for ... Read more »

Brugha TS, Spiers N, Bankart J, Cooper SA, McManus S, Scott FJ, Smith J, & Tyrer F. (2016) Epidemiology of autism in adults across age groups and ability levels. The British journal of psychiatry : the journal of mental science. PMID: 27388569  

  • July 27, 2016
  • 03:39 PM

Common brain changes found in children with autism, ADHD and OCD

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

A team of Toronto scientists has found similarities in brain impairments in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). The study involved brain imaging of white matter in 200 children with autism, ADHD, OCD or no diagnosis.

... Read more »

  • July 27, 2016
  • 03:38 PM

eBooks – global market and trends – Part III – Final: The publication of printed and digital books in the global context

by SciELO in SciELO in Perspective

The e-book Global report shows that the traditional model based on large publishing houses was insufficient to incorporate the possibilities of technological advances. On the one hand, the new reading models through smartphones and subscription platforms and on the other hand, self-publishing of ebooks open opportunities to both individual authors and non-profit organizations in the educational field to produce and distribute their own works at low cost and minimal infrastructure requirements. … Read More →... Read more »

WISCHENBART, R.,, & et al. (2016) Global eBook: a report on market trends an developments. Rüdiger Wischenbart Content and Consulting (RWCC). info:/

  • July 27, 2016
  • 02:38 PM

Deer Line Up North-South, Whether Relaxing or Running

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

If you're ever lost in a remote European forest, you might be able to get your bearings by finding a herd of roe deer. These animals like to align themselves roughly north-south, whether they're standing still or fleeing danger.

Roe deer are small, reddish or grayish grazers common in Europe and Asia. Petr Obleser, of the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague, and his coauthors studied the behavior of these skittish herbivores to look for evidence that they can sense the earth's mag... Read more »

Obleser, P., Hart, V., Malkemper, E., Begall, S., Holá, M., Painter, M., Červený, J., & Burda, H. (2016) Compass-controlled escape behavior in roe deer. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 70(8), 1345-1355. DOI: 10.1007/s00265-016-2142-y  

  • July 27, 2016
  • 01:33 PM

Posttraumatic stress disorder a greater risk in rich countries

by Eva Alisic in Trauma Recovery

One would think that people with few friends and living in poverty are more at risk for PTSD than those with a strong support network and many resources. And that's true.

However, it is a different story when you look at the country-, rather than the individual level. Countries with more resources, such as the USA and the Netherlands, have higher levels of PTSD than countries with fewer resources (e.g. Colombia, South Africa).
... Read more »

  • July 27, 2016
  • 11:30 AM

Your Cat Would Like Food Puzzle Toys

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Food puzzles will help satisfy your cat’s hunting instinct, but most cats are missing out.A new paper on food puzzle toys for cats has plenty of ideas to get everyone started on these wonderful enrichment items. The research, led by Mikel Delgado (University of California, Berkeley; Feline Minds), combines a review of the scientific literature on food toys as feline enrichment with practical tips gained from the authors’ work as feline behaviour practitioners.Food puzzles are toys that make your cat do some work to get the food out of them. Maybe they have to stick their paw in and pick pieces of food out, or maybe they roll it around with their nose or paw to make food fall out of the holes. There are many different types of food toys, some of which stay in one place and others that the cat has to move around.“It's a great way to give your cat something to do to keep them busy and get them doing what a predator is supposed to do... Working for their food!!” Mikel Delgado told me. “It's great for their brains and body!“A bonus is that it's really fun to watch your cat play with a food puzzle!”Most cats miss out on food toysA study of enrichment for cats found that only 5% of cats have food toys. An earlier study of how owners play with their cats found just 1% of cats have food toys, and only 0.5% of owners hide food for their cat to find.If your cat is one of those missing out, read on to find out why these feline scientists say you should give food puzzles a try.The benefits of food puzzle toys for catsFood puzzles make cats engage in part of their natural predation sequence – getting food. This has many benefits, according to the report, including encouraging cats to be more active, reducing stress levels, and making them be less demanding of their owners. If your cat is overweight or obese, then food puzzle toys can help cats to lose weight. In some cases, introducing food puzzle toys has also helped to resolve litter tray indiscretions (N.B. If your cat is toileting outside their litter tray, they must see a vet to solve any medical issues first).The report provides several case studies in which food puzzles have been all or part of the solution to feline behaviour problems.For example, a 3 year old neutered male cat was biting his owners, sometimes without warning. This was considered due to frustration. Introducing a combination of food puzzles led to some immediate improvement. Six months later, the aggressive behaviour had completely stopped.Food puzzles are also suitable for multi-cat homes, although each cat should have their own toy.How to get started with food toysWe all know cats can be finicky. You should expect to try several types of food toys in order to find ones your cat loves. Note that’s plural – your aim is to find (or make) several different food puzzles for your cat.Some cats that are used to having food freely available at all times may go on strike when they first find out they are now expected to work for their food. Not eating can be very dangerous for cats, so it’s important to make the toys accessible.Early on, they have to be very easy. You can increase the difficulty later, once your cat has got the hang of it.“Initially, obtaining food from the food puzzle needs to be as easy as obtaining food from the food bowl,” write the scientists. “This means that the cat should have to do very little work for food at first. The puzzle should be filled as much as possible, and should have several, large holes to allow food to fall out easily. The puzzle should roll with little manipulation. For stationary puzzles, cups or reservoirs should be overflowing.”Mixing some treats in with the cat’s regular food at first may help them to be interested in it. For puzzles that move, you can roll it around to show them how it works, and it will also help to present it on a surface where it will move easily (rather than carpet as that will make it harder; your cat can build up to this if you like).To begin with, you should still feed your cat some of their daily food in their bowl. Over time, once your cat has become adept at the food toy, you can reduce the amount in the bowl until they are working for all of their food.Your cat really will like food puzzlesIt seems that every cat can benefit from food toys and there are few, if any, downsides. A common reason they are not more widely used, according to the report, is that cat guardians think their cat will not be interested in them. Reassuringly, they say every cat they have worked with has learned to use food puzzles – even those with special needs. So why not give them a try?Trouble-shooting problemsIf your cat seems to be frustrated with the toy, you may need to make it easier for them. Remember that it should be overflowing with food at the beginning. If your cat is what the report calls a 'slow starter', you can hide a small portion of food somewhere for them to find. If it’s canned food, you can put a spoonful in a cup cake holder or on a little saucer to stop it from marking your furniture.If your cat seems bored, you can always make the toy more difficult (making sure you don’t go too far and make it too difficult). Some toys are adjustable to different difficulty levels. You can also try new toys.The paper also suggests filling a small food toy and putting it inside a larger one, which seems like a fiendish level of difficulty for expert cats.If you have a dog, you will need to think of a way to keep the dog from eating the cat’s food. You could use a pet gate to keep the dog away, or feed the cats in a room the dog doesn’t have access to. You may already be doing this to keep the dog away from the cat’s food bowl anyway. And you can, of course, give your dog their own food enrichment toys.Buy Food Puzzles or Make Them – It’s Your ChoiceThese days, there are lots of food puzzle toys on the market. It’s also very easy to make your own.You can make a very simple toy by cutting a hole in a cardboard tube (e.g. from toilet roll), putting food inside and sealing both ends. Remember to make it a large hole at the beginning so that it’s easy for your cat. The report includes a photo of this and several other purchased and home-made food puzzles.Two of the authors, Mikel Delgado and Ingrid Johnson, have a website that reviews food puzzles for cats. It has plenty of ideas for do-it-yourself toys too and is an excellent resource for anyone interested in providing more enrichment for their feline friend. I love this example that only requires a brown paper bag. One of their reviews features a 15-year old toothless, arthritic, three-legged cat enjoying using a toy called the Dog Tornado by Nina Ottoson. Food puzzles are suitable for all cats.The full paper is open access at the link below. It’s an interesting read and includes photos of food toys, including some DIY options, as well as lots of tips for introducing your cat to food puzzles.Does your cat have food puzzles?Reference... Read more »

Dantas, L., Delgado, M., Johnson, I., & Buffington, C. (2016) Food puzzles for cats: feeding for physical and emotional wellbeing. Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery. DOI: 10.1177/1098612X16643753  

  • July 27, 2016
  • 09:49 AM

The Myth of Human Adult Neurogenesis?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

In a new paper that could prove explosive, Australian neuropathologists C. V. Dennis and colleagues report that they found very little evidence for adult neurogenesis in humans.

In recent years, the idea that neurogenesis - the production of new neurons - occurs in specific regions of the adult brain has become widely accepted, and much discussed. Disruptions to neurogenesis have been proposed to play a role in stress, depression, and other disorders.

However, Dennis et al. say that ne... Read more »

Dennis CV, Suh LS, Rodriguez ML, Kril JJ, & Sutherland GT. (2016) Human adult neurogenesis across the ages: An immunohistochemical study. Neuropathology and applied neurobiology. PMID: 27424496  

  • July 27, 2016
  • 09:30 AM

HPV Human Papillomavirus Leads to Dysregulation of Immune Responses Through Epigenetic Mechanisms

by Louis Cicchini in EpiBeat

Human papillomaviruses (HPV) are a diverse group of small double-stranded DNA viruses with specific mucosal or cutaneous tropisms. It is estimated that up to 80% of sexually active individuals will become infected with HPV sometime in their lifetime, making HPV the most prevalent sexually transmitted infection. HPVs can be further divided into high- and low-risk genotypes, based on their oncogenic potential. High-risk HPVs are implicated as causal in nearly 100% of cervical cancers, approximately 25% of head and neck cancers, and an astounding 5% of all human cancers overall. HPV-associated cancers, like most cancers, take decades to develop; however, HPV-positive head and neck cancers are known to harbor far fewer oncogenic mutations than HPV-negative HNCs.1 This suggests that HPV employs different mechanisms to achieve cellular transformation via viral factors.

Genome-wide studies have revealed that HPV-associated cancers carry distinct epigenetic markers, specifically when analyzing DNA methylation patterns, when compared to HPV-negative cancers in the same anatomical location.... Read more »

Stransky N, Egloff AM, Tward AD, Kostic AD, Cibulskis K, Sivachenko A, Kryukov GV, Lawrence MS, Sougnez C, McKenna A.... (2011) The mutational landscape of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. Science (New York, N.Y.), 333(6046), 1157-60. PMID: 21798893  

Burgers WA, Blanchon L, Pradhan S, de Launoit Y, Kouzarides T, & Fuks F. (2007) Viral oncoproteins target the DNA methyltransferases. Oncogene, 26(11), 1650-5. PMID: 16983344  

Schlecht NF, Kulaga S, Robitaille J, Ferreira S, Santos M, Miyamura RA, Duarte-Franco E, Rohan TE, Ferenczy A, Villa LL.... (2001) Persistent human papillomavirus infection as a predictor of cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. JAMA, 286(24), 3106-14. PMID: 11754676  

  • July 27, 2016
  • 07:20 AM

The Nature of Science of Nature

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

One the tenets of science is that hypotheses can't be proved, only disproved. But medical journals do not publish negative data, even though this is often helpful to scientists and physicians. A recent TED Talk by Ben Goldacre illustrates this point in the context of drug studies. In a bigger sense – is this really the only way to do science; to follow this one scientific method?... Read more »

Ben Goldacre. (2012) What doctors don't know about the drugs they prescribe. TED MED. info:/

  • July 27, 2016
  • 04:30 AM

We’ll Ask the Question Again? Surgery or Nonoperative Treatment?

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

Patients who sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture were more likely to develop secondary meniscal injury and arthritis when compared to a matched cohort. Specifically, those that were treated nonoperatively or with delayed surgery may be more likely to develop secondary meniscal injury, develop arthritis, and be in need of a total knee replacement when compared with those patients treated with early surgery.... Read more »

Sanders, T., Kremers, H., Bryan, A., Fruth, K., Larson, D., Pareek, A., Levy, B., Stuart, M., Dahm, D., & Krych, A. (2016) Is Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Effective in Preventing Secondary Meniscal Tears and Osteoarthritis?. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(7), 1699-1707. DOI: 10.1177/0363546516634325  

join us!

Do you write about peer-reviewed research in your blog? Use to make it easy for your readers — and others from around the world — to find your serious posts about academic research.

If you don't have a blog, you can still use our site to learn about fascinating developments in cutting-edge research from around the world.

Register Now

Research Blogging is powered by SMG Technology.

To learn more, visit