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  • July 27, 2016
  • 11:30 AM
  • 12 views

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
  • 07:20 AM
  • 26 views

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
  • 31 views

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  

  • July 27, 2016
  • 03:44 AM
  • 30 views

Blood glutamate levels in autism meta-analysed

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"The meta-analysis provided evidence for higher blood glutamate levels in ASD [autism spectrum disorder]."That was the research bottom-line reported by Zhen Zheng and colleagues [1] (open-access available here) who surveyed the current peer-reviewed science literature in this area and found something to see based on: "Twelve studies involving 880 participants and 446 incident cases."Drawing on the idea that glutamate is a rather important amino acid that plays a role in various biological processes including that related to the manufacture of GABA (see here), Zheng et al observed higher circulating blood levels of the stuff; a sort-of proxy for what might also be going on with regards to brain levels of glutamate. That "excess glutamate has been shown to be a potent neurotoxin that leads to neuronal cell death and plays a role in the pathophysiology of some neuropsychiatric disorders" is an important point to make as to the potential implications from the Zheng meta-analysis.Zheng et al do mention how important glutamate is for the purposes of GABA production and in particular, how issues with glutamate decarboxylase (GAD) - a key enzyme that converts glutamate into GABA - described in some cases of autism [2] might account for the elevated levels of glutamate yet the generally lower levels of GABA seen in autism (see here). I'd be inclined to agree that this is perhaps one of the more important implications for glutamate in autism; particularly when added to the whole 'glutamate linked to epilepsy' bit knowing how close a relationship autism and epilepsy seem to share (see here).Where next with this research area I hear you ask? Well, I'd like to know a little more not just about glutamate but also another linked amino acid called glutamine. It has already been talked about in the autism research literature a while back (see here) but a lot more follow-up work is required on these two important compounds and what their differing ratio might mean. I'd also like to see more work done on the idea that "the mood stabilizer valproic acid, which exerts neuroprotective effects against glutamate-induced excitotoxicity, is effective in ASD [autism spectrum disorder] with seizures." Yes, I know that valproic acid a.k.a valproate is a bit of a double-edged sword when it comes to autism and other offspring developmental issues under certain circumstances (see here) but much like another research story in autism (see here) timing of exposure seems to be a key issue and one wonders whether other unrelated compounds might also exert a similar neuroprotective effect.As to the idea that "blood glutamate levels may serve as a potential biomarker in the diagnosis of ASD" made by Zheng and colleagues, we'll wait and see...----------[1] Zheng Z. et al. Blood Glutamate Levels in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2016 Jul 8;11(7):e0158688.[2] Yip J. et al. Decreased GAD65 mRNA levels in select subpopulations of neurons in the cerebellar dentate nuclei in autism: an in situ hybridization study. Autism Res. 2009 Feb;2(1):50-9.----------Zheng Z, Zhu T, Qu Y, & Mu D (2016). Blood Glutamate Levels in Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PloS one, 11 (7) PMID: 27390857... Read more »

  • July 26, 2016
  • 04:22 PM
  • 60 views

The mysterious fart

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Everyone does it ...no, not poop, but fart. Passing gas, fuming, crop dusting, cracking a rat -- no matter what you call it -- everyone fart, but why? Researchers have published an article devoted to the review of gaseous neurotransmitters of microbial origin and their role in the human body.

... Read more »

  • July 26, 2016
  • 09:22 AM
  • 41 views

Fungi found flourishing following fire

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Morels and several other fungi (all members of the order Pezizales) are known to produce their mushrooms in recently burned soil, whether it's the result of a nice little campfire or an entire forest going up in smoke. The fire creates the right conditions for the fungus, which lies beneath the ground and so protected from flames and heat, to send up mushrooms. These mushrooms release spores into the environment, and the circle of life continues ever onward.In the case of morels, it's thought a forest fire does two things. Firstly, it damages or outright kills the trees the fungus obtains food from while growing underground, which is thought to signal mushroom production. Secondly, it helps to clear out the plant litter (leaves, twigs, etc.) covering the forest floor, giving the mushrooms an easier path to the surface. The cup fungus Geopyxis carbonaria tends to be found in the same fire-damaged forests as morels. It appears earlier, so it might be useful as a guide for where lots of morels (one of the major products of North American forests - hundreds of tonnes are harvested each year) will appear.Here are a couple of cool photos I found on Flickr:Morels growing in a burned out stump hole (Source)Cup fungus growing where a campfire once burned (Source)Peziza pseudoviolacea growing at a recently burned site (Source)Rhizina undulata growing on a tree root in a recently burned forest (Source)ReferencesGreene DF, Hesketh M, Pounden E. 2010. Emergence of morel (Morchella) and pixie cup (Geopyxis carbonaria) ascocarps in response to the intensity of forest floor combustion during a wildfire. Mycologia 102(4):766-773. [Full text]... Read more »

  • July 26, 2016
  • 03:41 AM
  • 61 views

Probiotics degrading gluten peptides - part 2

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I going to assume that readers have some background knowledge about probiotics, gut bacteria, bacterial dysbiosis and coeliac disease before reading this post. I'd love to be able to give detailed descriptions of each here but fear that this would turn a short post into a much longer one...So... in a previous post titled: 'Probiotics degrading gluten peptides?' I covered the potentially important suggestion that certain types of bacteria might have the ability to breakdown (degrade) immunogenic gluten peptides. This may be particularly relevant to conditions like coeliac disease where specific peptides derived from gluten are involved in a cascade of biological processes that can and do affect a sizeable proportion of the population.In this part 2 post I'm turning my attention to the findings reported by Alberto Caminero and colleagues [1] who observed that: "Small intestinal bacteria exhibit distinct gluten metabolic patterns in vivo, increasing or reducing gluten peptide immunogenicity." Further that: "This microbe-gluten-host interaction may modulate autoimmune risk in genetically susceptible persons and may underlie the reported association of dysbiosis and CeD [coeliac disease]."How did they arrive at such conclusions? Well, it all started with some bacterial seeding, where "bacteria isolated from the small intestine of CeD patients or healthy controls" was implanted into a germ-free mouse/mice. Said mice were given gluten (gluten gavage) and various measures of gliadin content and the extent of breakdown of gluten proteins were measured. The specific peptides "produced by bacteria used in mouse colonization" were subjected to analysis via one of the gold-standards of analytical chemistry: LC-MS/MS. Said peptides were then evaluated for their immunogenic potential "using peripheral blood mononuclear cells from celiac patients after receiving a 3-day gluten challenge."Results: well I've already mentioned that different types of intestinal bacteria seemed to have different patterns of gluten protein degradation. This is rather important because not 10-15 years ago most people in the know would have suggested that gluten protein degradation is solely under the control of the body's biological systems designed for this purpose. Now it appears, there may be bacterial helping hands also at work. So: "Lactobacillus spp. from the duodenum of non-CeD controls degraded gluten peptides produced by human and Psa [Pseudomonas aeruginosa] proteases, reducing their immunogenicity." But for every 'good guy' there must be a 'bad guy' and in this case Psa assumes that role: "Psa-modified gluten peptides activated gluten-specific T-cells from CeD patients."One still has to be a little cautious about this and other related work as things stand but such results are promising. Not only because more and more the gut microbiome is being implicated in conditions like coeliac disease (see here for example) but also because there may be something that can be done about it [2] and science has the technology to identify other potential gluten-digesting bacteria [3] too. Indeed, alongside a suite of other potential intervention options (see here for example) the management of conditions like coeliac disease by avoidance of dietary gluten may eventually not be the only option. Whether this may also extend to the slightly more grey areas of gluten sensitivity (see here) remains to be seen as does the idea that certain bacteria might also 'work' on accompanying issues such as those linked to gut barrier integrity [4]...----------[1] Caminero A. et al. Duodenal bacteria from patients with celiac disease and healthy subjects distinctly affect gluten breakdown and immunogenicity. Gastroenterology. 2016 Jun 30. pii: S0016-5085(16)34713-8.[2] Duar RM. et al. Identification and characterization of intestinal lactobacilli strains capable of degrading immunotoxic peptides present in gluten. J Appl Microbiol. 2015 Feb;118(2):515-27.[3] Berger M. et al. Rapid isolation of gluten-digesting bacteria from human stool and saliva by using gliadin-containing plates. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2015 Jul;240(7):917-24.[4] Orlando A. et al. Lactobacillus GG restoration of the gliadin induced epithelial barrier disruption: the role of cellular polyamines. BMC Microbiol. 2014 Jan 31;14:19.----------Caminero, A., Galipeau, H., McCarville, J., Johnston, C., Bernier, S., Russell, A., Jury, J., Herran, A., Casqueiro, J., Tye-Din, J., Surette, M., Magarvey, N., Schuppan, D., & Verdu, E. (2016). Duodenal bacteria from patients with celiac disease and healthy subjects distinctly affect gluten breakdown and immunogenicity Gastroenterology DOI: 10.1053/j.gastro.2016.06.041... Read more »

  • July 25, 2016
  • 09:04 PM
  • 60 views

Wave that claw: how male crabs attract mates

by Emily Makowski in Sextraordinary!

Male Ilyoplax pusilla crabs wave their claws in the air to attract females, but why do different-sized males spend different amounts of time waving? The answer lies in research published this year. ... Read more »

  • July 25, 2016
  • 04:51 PM
  • 64 views

Restiffic Foot Wrap for Restless Legs Syndrome

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

Restiffic Foot Wrap for Restless Legs Syndrome... Read more »

  • July 25, 2016
  • 04:40 PM
  • 61 views

I know it is only a pilot study, but …. injuries in minimalist runners

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

I know it is only a pilot study, but …. injuries in minimalist runners

... Read more »

Ostermann, K., Ridpath, L., & Hanna, J. (2016) Self-Reported Minimalist Running Injury Incidence and Severity: A Pilot Study. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 116(8), 512. DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2016.104  

  • July 25, 2016
  • 03:38 PM
  • 57 views

Embryonic gene Nanog reverses aging in adult stem cells

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The fountain of youth may reside in an embryonic stem cell gene named Nanog. In a series of experiments, the gene kicked into action dormant cellular processes that are key to preventing weak bones, clogged arteries and other telltale signs of growing old. The findings also show promise in counteracting premature aging disorders such as Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

... Read more »

  • July 25, 2016
  • 03:37 AM
  • 70 views

Risk of cancer in mums of children with autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I very carefully approach the findings reported by Jennifer Fairthorne and colleagues [1] today detailing "the occurrence of hospital admissions and treatment/services for cancer in mothers of children with ASD [autism spectrum disorder] with or without ID [intellectual disability] compared with other mothers." Appreciating that families touched by autism probably have enough on their plate without additional talk about the 'big C', I do however think that this kind of research is important if not only as part of the process of 'caring for the carers'.Based on the analysis of various "Western Australian administrative health databases" (something gaining research ascendancy), researchers sought to estimate the odds, sorry hazard ratios, of hospitalisation and/or use of services in relation to cancer when it came to mums of children with autism (with and without learning disability) "compared with other mothers." They concluded that there may be something more to see when it comes to elevated use of cancer services among mothers of children with autism. Mothers of children with autism but not with accompanying learning disability in particular seemed to be a group in need of quite a bit more scientific investigation.Minus any sweeping generalisations nor scaremongering, this is important work. I've kinda touched upon the idea that risk of cancer might be something to look at in first degree relatives of those with autism (see here) before. As per reports such as the one by Erin Ingudomnukul and colleagues [2] the risk is not wildly increased similar to the risk of cancer among people with autism themselves (see here), but certainly enough to start asking more research questions about possible mechanisms and the potential applicability of preferential screening services. Indeed, on the topic of possible mechanisms it might be useful to note the growing interest in the idea that autism genes are not necessarily just genes for autism (see here) and that just outside of structural genetics, there is another branch of science ripe for further dual inquiry [3]...----------[1] Fairthorne JC. et al. Mothers of Children with Autism have Different Rates of Cancer According to the Presence of Intellectual Disability in Their Child. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders. 2016. July 6.[2] Ingudomnukul E. et al. Elevated rates of testosterone-related disorders in women with autism spectrum conditions. Horm Behav. 2007 May;51(5):597-604.[3] Latham KE. et al. The epigenetic lorax: gene-environment interactions in human health. Epigenomics. 2012 Aug;4(4):383-402.----------Fairthorne, J., de Klerk, N., Leonard, H., & Whitehouse, A. (2016). Mothers of Children with Autism have Different Rates of Cancer According to the Presence of Intellectual Disability in Their Child Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders DOI: 10.1007/s10803-016-2847-9... Read more »

  • July 24, 2016
  • 03:29 PM
  • 90 views

Researchers temporarily turn off brain area to better understand function

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Capitalizing on experimental genetic techniques, researchers have demonstrated that temporarily turning off an area of the brain changes patterns of activity across much of the remaining brain. The research suggests that alterations in the functional connectivity of the brain in humans may be used to determine the sites of pathology in complex disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

... Read more »

  • July 24, 2016
  • 04:45 AM
  • 84 views

Week 29 In Review: Open-Access Science | 18 to 25 July

by TakFurTheKaffe in Tak Fur The Kaffe

Cave art, wild fires, new dinosaur with teeny T-rex arms, thirsty trees and a new method to create hydrogen from grass. Here are five of the latest scientific studies published open-access this week.... Read more »

Cooper, J., Samson, A., Nieves, M., Lace, M., Caamaño-Dones, J., Cartwright, C., Kambesis, P., & Frese, L. (2016) ‘The Mona Chronicle’: the archaeology of early religious encounter in the New World. Antiquity, 90(352), 1054-1071. DOI: 10.15184/aqy.2016.103  

Nagra, G., Treble, P., Andersen, M., Fairchild, I., Coleborn, K., & Baker, A. (2016) A post-wildfire response in cave dripwater chemistry. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 20(7), 2745-2758. DOI: 10.5194/hess-20-2745-2016  

Caravaca, A., Jones, W., Hardacre, C., & Bowker, M. (2016) H production by the photocatalytic reforming of cellulose and raw biomass using Ni, Pd, Pt and Au on titania . Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Science, 472(2191), 20160054. DOI: 10.1098/rspa.2016.0054  

  • July 23, 2016
  • 05:30 PM
  • 94 views

Brain activity and response to food cues differ in severely obese women

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

The brain's reward centers in severely obese women continue to respond to food cues even after they've eaten and are no longer hungry, in contrast to their lean counterparts. The study compared attitudes and the brain activity of 15 severely obese women (those with a body mass index greater than 35) and 15 lean women (those with a BMI under 25).

... Read more »

Puzziferri, N., Zigman, J., Thomas, B., Mihalakos, P., Gallagher, R., Lutter, M., Carmody, T., Lu, H., & Tamminga, C. (2016) Brain imaging demonstrates a reduced neural impact of eating in obesity. Obesity, 24(4), 829-836. DOI: 10.1002/oby.21424  

  • July 23, 2016
  • 09:41 AM
  • 95 views

A New Map of the Brain: What Does It Mean?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new Nature paper has earned a lot of media attention, unusually given that it's a fairly technical and 'basic' piece of neuroscience. In the paper, researchers Matthew F. Glasser and colleagues present a new parcellation (or map) of the human cerebral cortex, breaking the cortex down into 180 areas per hemisphere - many more than conventional maps.



But is this, as Nature dubbed it, "the ultimate brain map"?

To generate their map, Glasser et al. first downloaded 210 people's data from... Read more »

Glasser MF, Coalson TS, Robinson EC, Hacker CD, Harwell J, Yacoub E, Ugurbil K, Andersson J, Beckmann CF, Jenkinson M.... (2016) A multi-modal parcellation of human cerebral cortex. Nature. PMID: 27437579  

  • July 23, 2016
  • 04:17 AM
  • 108 views

On probiotics and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

Granted, I am taking a slight departure from the material typically discussed on this blog by introducing the paper by Yan Zhang and colleagues [1] who reported the findings of a meta-analysis examining "the efficacy of different probiotic types, doses and treatment durations in IBS [irritable bowel syndrome] patients diagnosed by Rome III criteria via a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs)." The results however - "Probiotics are an effective pharmacological therapy in IBS patients" - were important enough for me to think about discussing, particularly in the context that IBS might not be stand-alone condition (see here) and some recent research in progress [2] (see here for my take) that could illustrate some wider relevance.The Zhang paper is open-access so doesn't need any grand rewriting from me in terms of methods or findings but a few things stick out. First is the fact that quite a few different probiotic preparations have been experimentally examined with IBS in mind. From the 21 studies looked at by Zhang et al, we have some recurring themes including different types of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus rhamnosus for example being included in the preparations. The inclusion of a preparation called VSL#3 also caught me eye in light of some discussions about a potential 'antibiotic brain' recently on this blog (see here) and what might reverse this in mice. Of additional note was the use of an old friend: Saccharomyces boulardii that continues to impress [3].Second, and related to the first point, are the authors conclusions that: "Single probiotics, a low dose, and a short treatment duration were more effective with respect to overall symptom response and QoL [quality of life]." The authors provide some rather interesting forest plots illustrating how the analysed data helped them reach this conclusion; albeit bearing in mind that "the effects of individual probiotic species" were not analysed in the current meta-analysis. In other words, some preparations seem to work pretty well but we don't know enough about which ones used under which circumstances.Finally, I noted that the whilst the use of a placebo was an important eligibility criteria for inclusion in their meta-analysis - "the studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared probiotics with placebo" - the authors did not shy away from the fact that: "An appreciable placebo effect was detected in some studies, which may have minimized the effects of probiotics." Placebo effects and IBS is something again, that has been discussed before on this blog (see here) bearing in mind I'm not saying that IBS is 'all in the mind' or anything like that.Set within the context of other recent meta-analyses concluding that: "There were alterations of gut microbiota in IBS patients and it implied that alterations of gut microbiota might be involved in the pathogenesis of IBS" [4] one shouldn't necessarily be surprised that there may have been effects from the use of probiotics in cases of IBS. Assuming that an oral probiotic is able to survive the stomach environment and actually colonise [parts of] the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (if only for a defined amount of time) the cost-effectiveness of this intervention coupled with the low rates of side-effects makes for impressive reading in terms of the treatment of at least some cases of IBS.----------[1] Zhang Y. et al. Effects of probiotic type, dose and treatment duration on irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed by Rome III criteria: a meta-analysis. BMC Gastroenterology. 2016; 16: 62.[2] Santocchi E. et al. Gut to brain interaction in Autism Spectrum Disorders: a randomized controlled trial on the role of probiotics on clinical, biochemical and neurophysiological parameters. BMC Psychiatry. 2016 Jun 4;16:183.[3] Szajewska H. & Kołodziej M. Systematic review with meta-analysis: Saccharomyces boulardii in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2015 Oct;42(7):793-801.[4] Zhuang X. et al. Alterations of gut microbiota in patients with irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2016 Jun 14.----------Zhang Y, Li L, Guo C, Mu D, Feng B, Zuo X, & Li Y (2016). Effects of probiotic type, dose and treatment duration on irritable bowel syndrome diagnosed by Rome III criteria: a meta-analysis. BMC gastroenterology, 16 (1) PMID: 27296254... Read more »

  • July 22, 2016
  • 03:38 PM
  • 116 views

When it comes to empathy, don't always trust your gut

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever feel like someone is hiding something? Or maybe you suddenly feel like you can't trust a co-worker. The feeling may seem logical, but is empathy the result of gut intuition or careful reasoning? Research suggests that, contrary to popular belief, the latter may be more the case.

... Read more »

  • July 22, 2016
  • 12:25 PM
  • 107 views

Video of Evaporating Booze Droplet Looks Like a Tiny Planet

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish



Most of us don't give much thought to drops of liquid that end up outside our drinking glasses. But physicists care a lot about liquid droplets, and study their whole lifespans—from the first splash or drip to the moment a drop disappears.

Liquids that contain three different substances, though, haven't been studied as much. Detlef Lohse, a physicist at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, and his colleagues took a deep dive into one such liquid: ouzo.

Ouzo is a mixture of wate... Read more »

Tan H, Diddens C, Lv P, Kuerten JG, Zhang X, & Lohse D. (2016) Evaporation-triggered microdroplet nucleation and the four life phases of an evaporating Ouzo drop. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 27418601  

  • July 22, 2016
  • 11:50 AM
  • 109 views

Altruistic people have more sex

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

People who perform regular altruistic acts like giving blood also tend to have more sex.Viewed through the lens of evolutionary psychology, altruism takes some explaining. In a dog eat dog world, it seems like a risky, indulgent habit. Yet we are only alive today because our distant ancestors were successful at reproducing – and the fact many of us have inherited their altruistic tendencies suggests that being altruistic gave them some kind of survival or reproductive advantage.One idea is that altruism is advantageous because it is often reciprocated. Another is that altruism is a "costly signal" that tells potential sexual partners you would make a good mate – if you've the freedom to be charitable, this suggests you must be capable and resourceful. Supporting this "costly signal" account, plentiful past research has shown that signs of altruism increase both men's and women's attractiveness to the opposite sex.Now an article in the British Journal of Psychology has followed through on this logic to find out whether more altruistic people aren't just more attractive, but actually have more sex. This is an important test because as Steven Arnocky and his colleagues explain, "... it is actual mating outcomes which ultimately contribute to the evolution of particular phenotypes". Stated differently, if the more altruistic of our forebears were not only perceived as more attractive, but also had more sex, this would help explain why many modern humans have inherited the inclination to be altruistic.One of the best indicators we have of whether our more altruistic forebears were likely to have had more sex is to see if, today, more altruistic people continue to have more sex than less altruistic people. That's what Arnocky and his team aimed to discover through two studies involving young adult Canadians.They first asked 192 unmarried women and 105 unmarried men to describe their own altruistic tendencies, such as whether they give money to charity, donate blood, help people across the street and so on. They also asked them questions about their sexual history and their desirability to the opposite sex.Men and women who scored higher on altruism said they were more attractive to, and received more interest from the opposite sex. Men, but not women, who scored higher on altruism also tended to report having had more sexual partners in their lifetime, and also more casual sexual partners specifically. Focusing on just those participants in a current long-term relationship, the more altruistic men and women in this group reported having more sex in their relationship over the last 30 days.Results from Study 1. Green dashed line=male participants; red=female. Figure from Arnocky et al, 2016. Of course this first study was limited by its reliance on participants' descriptions of their own altruism. Perhaps people who have more sex are simply inclined to brag more about being altruistic. To overcome this problem, a second study involving 335 undergrads featured a test of actual altruistic tendencies by giving participants the opportunity to donate to charity their potential $100 winnings for taking part in the study.The participants also answered questions about their sexual history, and this time there were measures of their narcissism and their tendency to give socially desirable answers (this last scale essentially involved participants rating statements about themselves – e.g. "I never regret any decisions" – as true or not, and it was possible to tell from the answers if someone was painting an unrealistically positive image of themselves).Even factoring out the narcissists and higher scorers on the social desirability scale, the second study found that actual altruistic tendencies correlated with having more sex. Among men only, this included having had more sexual partners in the past, and among men and women, having had more casual sex partners in their lifetime, and more sex partners in the past year.The researchers said their findings add to past research on hunter-gatherer tribes that have shown men who hunt and who share more meat among non-relatives also tend to have more sex. The new results also converge with past evidence suggesting that altruistic men and women are seen as more desirable."The present study provides the first empirical evidence that altruism may tangibly benefit mating in humans living in Western industrialised society,"  the researchers said,  "and that sex differences might exist with respect to the utility of altruism for mating, whereby it is a more effective signal for men than for women."One big caveat, acknowledged by the researchers – these results are correlational so it's not clear which way the causal juices are flowing. An alternative interpretation of the results is that having more sex and sexual partners encourages people to feel generous towards others and be more altruistic. We'll have to await longitudinal research that charts people's sexual habits and altruism over time to settle this question, though the idea that altruism leads to more sex is certainly consistent with the past evidence suggesting altruistic behaviour causes increases in a person's desirability._________________________________ Arnocky, S., Piché, T., Albert, G., Ouellette, D., & Barclay, P. (2016). Altruism predicts mat... Read more »

Arnocky, S., Piché, T., Albert, G., Ouellette, D., & Barclay, P. (2016) Altruism predicts mating success in humans. British Journal of Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12208  

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