Post List

  • July 10, 2014
  • 11:19 AM

Haha, kkkk, 555, LOL, jaja: Globalization Through Internet Jokes

by Nura Rutten in United Academics

In a recent article from Shifman, Levy and Thelwall, internet jokes are found to serve as an important and powerful agent of globalization and americanization. To research the role of internet jokes, they look at the concept of “user-generated globalization”, where internet users are the focal points through which user-generated content (in this case jokes) is translated, customized and distributed across the globe.... Read more »

Shifman, L., Levy, H., & Thelwall, M. (2014) Internet Jokes: The Secret Agents of Globalization?. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12082  

  • July 10, 2014
  • 07:17 AM

Can a Failed Schizophrenia Drug Prevent PTSD?

by The Neurocritic in The Neurocritic

In the 2000s, enthusiasm was high that a novel class of drugs would reach the market as blockbuster treatments for psychiatric disorders. These drugs act on receptors for a group of neuropeptides known as tachykinins (or neurokinins). These peptides — substance P (SP), neurokinin A (NkA), and neurokinin B (NkB) — function as neurotransmitters or neuromodulators in the central nervous system, but are quite different from the usual monoamines targeted by current psychotropic medications prescribed for schizophrenia, depression, and other mental illnesses.The tachykinin receptors (NK1, NK2, NK3) have varying affinities for the different peptides, being greatest for SP, NkA, and NkB respectively. A series of clinical trials with NK1 antagonist compounds (i.e., SP blockers) was conducted as potential treatments for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder, alcohol craving, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Substance P is released during times of increased stress and localized in brain regions implicated in the stress response (Ebner et al., 2009), so the idea was that dampening the effects of SP would lead to symptom amelioration in these disorders.  However, except for some mildly promising results in stressed alcoholics, the trials were disappointing in patients with generalized anxiety and PTSD. Results were mixed in major depression. But those trials, with a GSK compound called orvepitant, were terminated to due serious adverse events (seizures) in several patients.In contrast, the most promising target for schizophrenia seemed to be the neurokinin 3 (NK3) receptor. This was because of prominent expression on the midbrain dopamine (DA) cells implicated in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, and because selective NK3 antagonists can block NkB-induced excitation of dopamine neurons (Spooren et al., 2005). The original “typical” antipsychotic medications are DA antagonists, which can have untoward side effects with chronic use. Because NK3 antagonists lack the major extrapyramidal and metabolic side effects of typical and atypical antipsychotics, they were heralded as “the next generation of antipsychotics” in 2005. How well have they fared since then?(1) The NK3 antagonist osanetant was under development by Sanofi-Synthélabo as a potential treatment for schizophrenia:In October 1999, Lehman Brothers predicted that the probability of the product reaching the market was 10%, with a possible launch in 2003 and potential peak sales of US $200 million in 2011.However, Sanofi-Aventis stopped any further development of osanetant in 2005.(2) The NK3 antagonist talnetant was under development by GlaxoSmithKline, with several clinical trials conducted between 2002 and 2005. But it too was discontinued (in 2007).In other words, these drugs have not lived up to their original promise as novel treatments for schizophrenia.“Repurposing” of Drugs“We should continue to repurpose treatments and to recognise the role of serendipity,” said Geddes and Miklowitz (2013) in a recent review on new treatments for bipolar disorder. Although the article did not hint at any impending pharmacological breakthroughs, the idea that existing drugs can find new indications is especially pertinent in this era of shrinking investment in neuro/psych drug development. Sometimes the serendipity and repurposing comes from mechanistic preclinical studies that can then be retranslated back to the clinic. Jumping ahead to that possibility, a press release from Emory declares:Potential drug target for PTSD preventionScientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University have identified a drug that appears to make memories of fearsome events less durable in mice.The finding may accelerate the development of treatments for preventing PTSD. The drug, called osanetant, targets a distinct group of brain cells in a region of the brain that controls the formation and consolidation of fear memories.. . .“Potentially, drugs that act on this group of cells could be used to block fear memory consolidation shortly after exposure to a trauma, which would aid in preventing PTSD,” says Kerry Ressler, MD, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences... “PTSD is unique among psychiatric disorders in that we know when it starts – at the time of the trauma. Finding ways to prevent its development in the first place – in the emergency department or the battlefield - is an important and exciting avenue of research in this area.”NkB and the Consolidation of Fear Memories  A new study in mice found that osanetant could block the consolidation of fear memories when administered within a narrow time window (Andero et al., 2014):Notably, when osanetant is dosed from 30 min before auditory FC [fear conditioning] up to 1 hr after training, it does not affect fear acquisition but impairs fear memory consolidation as shown by decreased freezing in the fear expression test.  Furthermore, mice previously traumatized by 2 hours of immobilization (a rodent model of PTSD-like behaviors that include impaired fear extinction) also showed reductions in fear memory consolidation when given osanetant (IMO-Osa), compared to placebo (IMO-Veh).... Read more »

  • July 10, 2014
  • 03:34 AM

Viral exposure and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

A whole slew of articles published by Ivan Gentile and colleagues based at the University of Naples (Italy) brought me to writing this post looking at some of the literature on viral exposures and autism. Viruses, in case you didn't know, are some of nature's survivors, infecting host cells and reproducing, onwards hopeful of finding more (un)willing cells/organisms to infect. Humankind have developed various biological defence mechanisms against the viral (and bacterial) onslaught that we all face as part of daily life, part of which is the production of antibodies. Antibodies are all about identification, action and memory and form the basis for why we vaccinate against various disease causing viruses. Sometimes antibodies also take part in a process called neutralisation which is all about rendering a virus ineffective when it comes to infectivity.A founder of virology @ Wikipedia I've talked previously on this blog about viruses and their possible connection to some cases of autism (see here for example). I've also discussed how traces of the viruses of yesteryear (many, many yesteryears) can still be found in our genome and how such fossil viruses may, in some cases, still impact on our health and wellbeing (see here and see here). But enough of all this idle chatter...The specific papers under discussion today include:Prevalence and Titre of Antibodies to Cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr Virus in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder [1]Exposure to Varicella Zoster Virus Is Higher in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder than in Healthy Controls. Results from a Case-control Study [2]Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 Antibodies in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders [3]Let's call them paper 1, paper 2 and paper 3 respectively for convenience.All were published in the journal In Vivo and follow some history looking at viral infections and autism by this research group [4] including those most contentious of viral infections when it comes to autism: measles, mumps and rubella [5]. I might also add that some speculations from this group looking at linking genetic predisposition, vitamin D deficiency and infection potentially correlating with a "a deranged immune response" with some autism in mind [6] might not be as outlandish as once thought. Indeed, that review paper [6] is probably one of the best I've read in a long time drawing on the available data on immune function and autism bearing in mind the emerging vitamin D story (see here).Anyhow:Papers 1-3 all relied on the same participant groups, that is: 54 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 46 asymptomatic controls. Exposure (seropositivity) rates and antibody titer levels to Cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) (paper 1), Varicella Zoster Virus (VZV) (paper 2) and Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV1) and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV2) (paper 3) were measured and compared between groups.Paper 3 detailing the findings on HSV1 and HSV2 concluded: "Seropositivity rate and levels of anti-HSV1/2 were not dissimilar between cases and controls". In other words, nothing to see there in this cohort.Paper 1 looking at CMV and EBV came to a similar conclusion as that of paper 3, although the authors note: "considering only patients with ASD, those seropositive for CMV tended to test worse to the major severity scales than the seronegative ones". With my recent interest in CMV and autism (see here), I'm intrigued...Paper 2 provides something of a more 'positive' result with it's analysis of VZV, the virus linked to chickenpox and shingles, in connection to the autism grouping. Authors concluded: "The exposure rate and titer of anti-VZV antibodies were significantly higher in children with ASD compared to controls (59% vs. 39% and 694 mIU/ml vs. 94 mIU/ml, respectively)". Further: "exposure to VZV was found to be independently associated with ASD".We do have to be a little bit careful when it comes to these studies on the basis of their small participant numbers and the applicability of results to other groups whether in age or geography. As per some previous chatter about the other Gentile paper on MMR antibodies and autism (see here) not every study agreed with their findings [7]. Likewise, these latest results say nothing about 'causation' in terms of autistic presentation outside what is already suspected with something like CMV and autism in mind [8]. Correlation is not the same as causation, as if you needed telling.That all being said I do think there is more to do in this area. There is some research history when it comes viral infection and autism as per the review by Libbey and colleagues [9] and in amongst that literature is mention of varicella [10] including "cases of autism associated with postnatal varicella encephalitis" [11]. The quite stark disparity in mean antibody titers to VZV between autism and control groups suggests that something might be afoot outside of just some healthy immunity to something like chicken pox.----------[1] Gentile I. et al. Prevalence and Titre of Antibodies to Cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr Virus in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In Vivo. 2014 07-08;28(4):621-626.[2] Gentile I. et al. Exposure to Varicella Zoster Virus Is Higher in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder than in Healthy Controls. Results from a Case-control Study.  In Vivo. 2014 07-08;28(4):627-631.[3] Gentile I. et al. Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 Antibodies in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In Vivo. 2014 07-08;28(4):667-671.[4] Gentile I. et al. Prevalence of HHV-6 and HHV-8 antibodies in patients with autism spectrum disorders. In Vivo. 2013 Nov-Dec;27(6):843-9.[5] Gentile I. et al. Response to measles-mumps-rubella vaccine in children with autism spectrum disorders. In Vivo. 2013 May-Jun;27(3):377-82.[6] Gentile I. et al. Etiopatho... Read more »

Gentile I, Zappulo E, Bonavolta R, Maresca R, Messana T, Buonomo AR, Portella G, Sorrentino R, Settimi A, Pascotto A.... (2014) Prevalence and Titre of Antibodies to Cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr Virus in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In vivo (Athens, Greece), 28(4), 621-626. PMID: 24982232  

Gentile I, Zappulo E, Bonavolta R, Maresca R, Riccio MP, Buonomo AR, Portella G, Vallefuoco L, Settimi A, Pascotto A.... (2014) Prevalence of Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 Antibodies in Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders. In vivo (Athens, Greece), 28(4), 667-671. PMID: 24982239  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 07:33 PM

The effects of the sole geometry of the On running shoe

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

The effects of the sole geometry of the On running shoe... Read more »

Knoepfli-Lenzin, C., Waech, J., Gülay, T., Schellenberg, F., & Lorenzetti, S. (2014) The influence of a new sole geometry while running. Journal of Sports Sciences, 1-9. DOI: 10.1080/02640414.2014.915421  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 03:43 PM

Researchers Create Sand-Based Li-Ion Batteries

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have developed an inexpensive way to produce sand-based Li-ion batteries.... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 01:37 PM

Lose Weight, Live Longer. Simple, Right?

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Suprise! Really this shouldn’t come as a shock, but adults with extreme obesity have increased risks of dying at a younger age from cancer and other complications like stroke, diabetes, heart disease, […]... Read more »

Kitahara, C., Flint, A., Berrington de Gonzalez, A., Bernstein, L., Brotzman, M., MacInnis, R., Moore, S., Robien, K., Rosenberg, P., Singh, P.... (2014) Association between Class III Obesity (BMI of 40–59 kg/m2) and Mortality: A Pooled Analysis of 20 Prospective Studies. PLoS Medicine, 11(7). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001673  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 12:06 PM

Brain Hippocampus Atrophy in Traumatic Brain Injury

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Understanding the specific brain regions vulnerable to traumatic brain injury (TBI) is important for assessment and intervention research.Two areas of active research include studies of brain white matter using diffusion tensor imaging and assessment of regional brain atrophy using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).Two recent MRI studies have suggested the brain hippocampus may be a region of vulnerability to TBI.A Canadian study by Robin Green and colleagues used brain MRI to examine a cohort of 56 subjects 5 and 20 months following TBI.The majority of subjects in this study sustained their TBI in a motor vehicle accident. Nearly 70% of the subjects met criteria for severe TBI using the Glasgow Coma Scale. Two thirds of the TBI subjects had a week or more of post-traumatic amnesia. Subjects were compared to a group of controls without TBI.The key findings from their study included:96% of TBI subjects showed significant atrophy in one of four regions of interest: right hippocampus, left hippocampus, corpus callosum and whole brain75% of subjects showed atrophy in 3 of the 4 brain regionsAtrophy in the right and left hippocampus was diffuse across the head, body and tail of the structure A second study published in JAMA identified the hippocampus as a potentially vulnerable structure in TBI was conducted at the Laureate Institute of Brain Research (LIBR) in Tulsa, OK. This study led by Dr. Patrick Bellgowen, recruited young male participants for MRI including 25 football players with a history of concussion, 25 football players without history of concussion and 25 controls.The key findings from this study included:Football players with and without a history of concussion showed smaller hippocampus volumesThe decrease in left hippocampus volume was negatively correlated with years of football participation (greater years of participation correlated with greater hippocampus volume atrophy)Neuropsychological testing results were minimally impaired in the football players but greater hippocampus atrophy was correlated with a reduction in reaction times.Green and colleagues note their findings of a high rate of atrophy (96%) do not suggest a large genetic variability in vulnerability to TBI. Additionally, they comment that correlation between hippocampus atrophy and corpus callosum "raise the possibility of common mechanisms for these regions, including transneuronal degeneration."The LIBR study suggests that simply assessing and monitoring football players with a history of concussion may not be enough to identify all significant TBI in this population.TBI is a known risk factor for later Alzheimer's disease and other dementing illnesses including chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.Alzheimer's disease is known to be linked to pathology in the brain hippocampus, a region known to be important in memory function.The hippocampus may be a key region linking TBI and later dementing disorders.Readers with more interest in these studies can access the references by clicking on the citations below.Figure is a brain image highlighting the brain hippocampus in green. The image is from an iPad screenshot using the iPad app 3D Brain and is from the authors files.Disclosure: The author is a research psychiatrist and works at LIBR. Additionally, the author is a member of the board for LIBR.Follow the author on Twitter: WRY999Green RE, Colella B, Maller JJ, Bayley M, Glazer J, & Mikulis DJ (2014). Scale and pattern of atrophy in the chronic stages of moderate-severe TBI. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8 PMID: 24744712Singh R, Meier TB, Kupli... Read more »

Green RE, Colella B, Maller JJ, Bayley M, Glazer J, & Mikulis DJ. (2014) Scale and pattern of atrophy in the chronic stages of moderate-severe TBI. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 67. PMID: 24744712  

Singh R, Meier TB, Kuplicki R, Savitz J, Mukai I, Cavanagh L, Allen T, Teague TK, Nerio C, Polanski D.... (2014) Relationship of collegiate football experience and concussion with hippocampal volume and cognitive outcomes. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 311(18), 1883-8. PMID: 24825643  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 12:05 PM

You can do it! Self-talk is more effective when you refer to yourself as You, rather than I

by Christian Jarrett in BPS Research Digest

We know self-talk can help people's self-control (e.g. "Don't do it!"), and boost their morale (e.g. "Hang in there!") in sporting situations. However, before now, no-one has investigated whether self-talk is more effective depending on whether you refer to yourself in the grammatical first person (i.e. "I can do it!") or the second person (i.e. "You can do it?").Sanda Dolcos and her team first asked 95 psychology undergrads to imagine they were a character in a short story. The character is faced with a choice [strangely, we're not given any detail about these vignettes], and the participants are asked to write down the advice they would give themselves in this role, to help make the choice. Crucially, half the participants were instructed to use the first-person "I" in their self-advice, the others to use the second-person "You". Right after, the participants completed a series of anagrams. Those who'd given their fictional selves advice using "You" completed more anagrams than those who'd used the first person "I" (17.53 average completion rate vs. 15.96).A second study with 143 more psych students was similar, but this time the students gave themselves self-advice specifically in relation to completing anagrams, and this time the researchers finished up the study by tapping the students' attitudes to anagrams, and their intentions to complete more in the future. Students who gave themselves self-advice in the second-person managed to complete more anagrams, and they said they would be happier to work on more in the future (as compared with students who used the first-person, or a control group who did not give themselves advice). The greater success rate for the second-person students was mediated by their more positive attitudes.Finally, 135 more psych students wrote down self-advice in relation to exercising more over the next two weeks. Those who referred to themselves as "You" in that advice subsequently stated that they planned to do more exercise over the next two weeks, and they also went on to report more positive attitudes towards exercising, than those students who referred to themselves as "I". Dolcos and her colleagues said theirs was the "first experimental demonstration" that second-person self-talk is more effective than the first-person variety, thus complementing "past intuitions and descriptive data" suggesting that people resort to second-person self-talk when in more demanding situations. The researchers speculate that second-person self-talk may have this beneficial effect because it cues memories of receiving support and encouragement from others, especially in childhood. "Future work should examine ways to actually training people to strategically use the second-person in ways that improve their self-regulation ..." they said.Many readers will likely be disappointed by the dependence on purely psychology student samples. You might wonder too whether writing down self-advice is truly equivalent to internal self-talk; and maybe you'll have doubts about the extent to which anagram performance and exercising intentions tells us about potential effects in the real world. Another issue is that the study didn't investigate people's preferences for self-talk - is it a blanket rule that second-person self talk is superior for everyone?_________________________________ Dolcos, S., & Albarracin, D. (2014). The inner speech of behavioral regulation: Intentions and task performance strengthen when you talk to yourself as a You European Journal of Social Psychology DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.2048 Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 11:32 AM


by Emily Lawson in Antisense Science

The creation of a new drug that is safer, more effective, and has fewer side effects than the current treatment surely renders the current treatment obsolete, right? Well, not necessarily.

Take tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) for instance. TCAs are a class of antidepressant that work by blocking the serotonin and noradrenaline transporters, leading to an increase in the amount of serotonin and noradrenaline in the synapse. As the current theory says that depression is caused by low levels of serotonin and noradrenaline in the brain, you would assume that TCAs were a good choice of treatment for depression.... Read more »

Sindrup, S., Otto, M., Finnerup, N., & Jensen, T. (2005) Antidepressants in the Treatment of Neuropathic Pain. Basic Clinical Pharmacology Toxicology, 96(6), 399-409. DOI: 10.1111/j.1742-7843.2005.pto_96696601.x  

Bohren Y, Tessier LH, Megat S, Petitjean H, Hugel S, Daniel D, Kremer M, Fournel S, Hein L, Schlichter R.... (2013) Antidepressants suppress neuropathic pain by a peripheral β2-adrenoceptor mediated anti-TNFα mechanism. Neurobiology of disease, 39-50. PMID: 23978467  

Micó JA, Ardid D, Berrocoso E, & Eschalier A. (2006) Antidepressants and pain. Trends in pharmacological sciences, 27(7), 348-54. PMID: 16762426  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 11:19 AM

Say No to Nocebo: How Doctors Can Keep Patients’ Minds from Making Them Sicker

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

“First, do no harm,” the saying goes, but that might be close to impossible. Just as our expectations can make us feel better, they can also make us feel much worse. This means that how doctors phrase their instructions or introduce new drugs may have a real impact on our health. But some doctors are […]The post Say No to Nocebo: How Doctors Can Keep Patients’ Minds from Making Them Sicker appeared first on Inkfish.... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 09:37 AM

Video Tip of the Week: Google Genomics, API and GAbrowse

by Mary in OpenHelix

This week’s video tip comes to us from Google–it’s about their participation in the “Global Alliance for Genomics and Health” coalition. Global Alliance is aimed at developing genomic data standards for interoperability, and they’ve been working on creating the framework (some background links below in the references will provide further details). It has over 170 […]... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 09:21 AM

Clothing the Dead in Ancient Peru

by Katy Meyers in Bones Don't Lie

Why is clothing on the dead so important? Because what we choose to put on our bodies conveys social meanings about our wealth, our status, and the social groups we […]... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 09:21 AM

A Deadly Shot: Heart Attacks During The World Cup

by Nura Rutten in United Academics

Studies show that there is an increase in cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, at the time of important football matches like the World Cup. Especially penalty shoot-outs can cause a higher number of myocardial infarctions. However, there are also studies that report no significant influence or even a decrease in cardiac emergencies.... Read more »

Mendenhall, M., Ute Wilbert-Lampen, M.D.,, David Leistner, M.D.,, Sonja Greven, M.S.,, Tilmann Pohl, M.D.,, Sebastian Sper,, Christoph Völker,, Denise Güthlin,, Andrea Plasse,, Andreas Knez, M.D.,.... (2008) Cardiovascular Events During World Cup Soccer. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 35(1), 114-115. DOI: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2008.03.028  

Carroll D, Ebrahim S, Tilling K, Macleod J, & Smith GD. (2002) Admissions for myocardial infarction and World Cup football: database survey. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 325(7378), 1439-42. PMID: 12493655  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 08:58 AM

New Electrochemistry Tech Makes Batteries Last Longer

by dailyfusion in The Daily Fusion

Scientists at the University of Alberta have used a process called induced fluorination to create faster-charging, longer-lasting batteries.... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 08:30 AM

Sub-Optimal Choice in Dogs: Cheese or Cheese and Carrot?

by CAPB in Companion Animal Psychology Blog

Evidence suggests dogs do not always make the best choice. A new study finds that far as food choice is concerned, they use the same heuristic previously demonstrated in humans and monkeys. Photo: Igor Sokolov (breeze) / ShutterstockEarlier research has found that if people are asked to estimate the value of a set of 24 good condition dishes vs a set of 40 dishes (of which 31 are in good condition), they tend to think the former is more valuable. The broken dishes seem to detract from the fact the second set has more dishes in good condition. This is known as the ‘less is more’ effect.This effect has been demonstrated in monkeys, too. Monkeys like grapes and they also like slices of cucumber, although not as much. If given a choice between a grape vs a grape and a slice of cucumber, they tend to choose the grape.Does the same hold true for dogs? Kristina Pattison and Thomas Zentall (University of Kentucky) set out to investigate.The experiment took place in a plain room at the University. Since some dogs can be nervous in a new environment, dogs were given 5 minutes to investigate the room, and then offered a piece of cheese, a piece of carrot, followed by a piece of cheese with a piece of carrot. Dogs had to eat all of these items in order to qualify to participate. In the experiment, dogs were given a choice between a slice of cheese or a slice of cheese and a slice of carrot. After demonstrating that she had both items, the experimenter held her hands out with the items in the palm, and the handler released the dog. As soon as the dog touched one of her hands, the experimenter closed the other hand so the dog only had access to the hand it had chosen. The dog was allowed to eat the item(s), then went back to the handler to repeat the experience.Ten pet dogs took part, including five mixed breeds, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a Siberian Husky, a Belgian Tervuren and a Golden Retriever (the researchers don’t say what the other dog was). The dogs showed a significant preference for a single piece of cheese rather than a piece of cheese and a piece of carrot. On average across all the dogs, cheese plus carrot was chosen only 27% of the time. One of the ten dogs actually showed a consistent preference for cheese plus carrot. Interestingly, this was a dog that was adopted as an adult rescue, having previously been a stray. The authors hypothesized that he may have had a greater motivation for choosing two items of food over one.  In fact, they point out that the dogs in this study and the monkeys in the monkey study all had relatively little motivation, since they are well-fed and not starving.Some dogs have a preference for going to the left or right hand, and these dogs were weeded out in pre-tests. In addition, since it was theoretically possible that dogs have a preference for a single item rather than two items, there was another test in which dogs were given a choice between one slice of cheese and two slices of cheese. They picked two slices of cheese 95% of the time.Why would people and dogs make this kind of choice? The authors say, “The less is more effect, first demonstrated in humans, is an affect heuristic that results in a preference for the qualitative over the quantitative evaluation of options. Its function appears to have been the rapid evaluation of alternatives. It is likely that in many cases it is relatively easy to judge the qualitative value of alternatives but perhaps more difficult to judge their quantitative value, and when rapid decisions are necessary, such heuristics may be quite functional. For example, within-species competition may favour rapid decisions because hesitation may result in losing food to a faster competitor.”Given the small sample size, further research is needed to see if this fascinating result applies widely.The nice thing about this experiment is that it is relatively easy to replicate at home. Why not give your dog this choice a few times, and report back?ReferencePattison, K., & Zentall, T. (2014). Suboptimal choice by dogs: when less is better than more Animal Cognition, 17 (4), 1019-1022 DOI: 10.1007/s10071-014-0735-2... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 08:15 AM

What’s So Repelling About Repellents?

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

It’s amazing that even though citronella and DEET reduce mosquito bites, we have very little idea of how they work. New research is showing that DEET interacts with olfactory receptors so that chemical attractants are still sensed, but their interpretations are confused. You are still there, but you pretty disappear as far as the mosquito is concerned. Other research shows that one of the co-receptors for olfactory receptors is responsible not only for DEET activity, but also for mosquito preference for humans. The same receptor pushes and pulls mosquitoes to and from humans.... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 05:52 AM

Familial Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorder (again)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Neil Risch and colleagues [1] adds to the growing literature looking at the question of familial recurrence of autism i.e. if one child has a diagnosis of autism, how likely are subsequent children to be similarly diagnosed. The answer according to this latest data: "The overall sibling recurrence risk was 10.1%" compared with 0.5% in siblings of asymptomatic controls. This figure is pretty much the same as that reported by Sandin and colleagues [2] covered not so long ago (see here).Sister. So you have a twin sister... @ Wikipedia Cross-linking data derived from "California Department of Developmental Services records with state birth certificates" authors set about identifying "all siblings and half siblings of individuals affected with ASD born between 1990 and 2003". They looked at subsequent births "born after ASD [autism spectrum disorder] index cases" and compared them with control participant data for a diagnosis of ASD.The value-added bit to the Risch data is that alongside looking at birth order and any effect on risk of ASD - second born children in autism cases were found to be at greater risk than later born siblings (11.5% vs. 7.3% respectively) of subsequent diagnosis - the authors also looked at the issue of inter-birth interval and whether that exerted any effect. It did as it happens: "the recurrence risk reaching 14.4% for an interbirth interval of 18 months or less, compared with 6.8% for an interval of 4 years or more". This issue under the name inter-pregnancy interval (IPI) is something which has also graced this blog on a previous occasion (see here) with autism in mind. On that previous post, I covered some of the possible hows and whys when it comes to a short IPI and autism risk...There is little more for me to say about the Risch paper and what it means for something like genetic counselling when it comes to autism risk. I should point out that not every piece of research on this topic has arrived at the same figure (see here and see here for example) but one can perhaps see how variables such as geography and gender might affect recurrence risk. I will also drop in the paper by Hoffmann and colleagues [3] (yes, the same authorship team) on reproductive stoppage as also being relevant at this point covered in a previous post (see here).Music to close.... Anything Goes (Indiana Jones style).----------[1] Risch N. et al. Familial Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evaluating Genetic and Environmental Contributions. Am J Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 27. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13101359.[2] Sandin S. et al. The Familial Risk of Autism. JAMA 2014; 311: 1770-1777.[3] Hoffmann TJ. et al. Evidence of Reproductive Stoppage in Families With Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Large, Population-Based Cohort Study. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014 Jun 18. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.420.----------Risch, N., Hoffmann, T., Anderson, M., Croen, L., Grether, J., & Windham, G. (2014). Familial Recurrence of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Evaluating Genetic and Environmental Contributions American Journal of Psychiatry DOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2014.13101359... Read more »

  • July 9, 2014
  • 04:30 AM

Maize lethal necrosis has spread to Rwanda

by Abigail Rumsey in The Plantwise Blog

Report by Abigail Rumsey, Beatrice Uwumukiza and Bellancila Uzayisenga. In the past two years, we have reported on the presence of the maize lethal necrosis (MLN) disease in East African countries including Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The disease is also present in South Sudan. The most recent report has been of its spread to the […]... Read more »

Adams, I., Harju, V., Hodges, T., Hany, U., Skelton, A., Rai, S., Deka, M., Smith, J., Fox, A., Uzayisenga, B.... (2014) First report of maize lethal necrosis disease in Rwanda. New Disease Reports, 22. DOI: 10.5197/j.2044-0588.2014.029.022  

  • July 9, 2014
  • 03:28 AM

Do chimps like to listen to African and Indian music?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

“While preferring silence to music from the West, chimpanzees apparently like to listen to the different rhythms of music from Africa and India, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.” ... Read more »

Mingle, M., Eppley, T., Campbell, M., Hall, K., Horner, V., & de Waal, F. (2014) Chimpanzees Prefer African and Indian Music Over Silence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Animal Learning and Cognition. DOI: 10.1037/xan0000032  

Merchant, H., & Honing, H. (2013) Are non-human primates capable of rhythmic entrainment? Evidence for the gradual audiomotor evolution hypothesis. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 7(274). info:/

  • July 9, 2014
  • 01:18 AM

The Warrior Gene, Back from the Grave

by nooffensebut in The Unsilenced Science

Recently two meta-analyses on the gene, monoamine oxidase A, and its relationship with violence came to opposite conclusions. I review those studies and pose the questions that the scientists were too afraid to answer.... Read more »

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