When asking someone to do something unethical, we underestimate what a difficult position we've put them in. New research suggests that to avoid social discomfort, many people will agree to perform a bad deed rather than say no.Vanessa Bohns and her colleagues first asked 52 student participants (31 women) to estimate how many people they'd have to approach on campus in order to get three people to tell a white lie. The lie was to sign a form saying the participant had given them a verbal introduction to a new university course, when really he/she had done no such thing. After making the estimate, the participants went out on campus to test their persuasiveness.On average, the participants thought they'd have to ask 8.47 people before 3 agreed; in reality they needed on average to ask just 4.39. In all, 91 per cent of the participants overestimated how many people they'd need to approach.A second study was similar but this time 25 participants estimated how many people they'd need to ask before 3 agreed to vandalise a library book by writing the word "pickle" inside in pen (ostensibly as part of a prank the participant was involved in). The participants' average estimate was that they'd need to ask 10.73 people on campus; in fact they needed only to approach an average of 4.7 people before 3 agreed to this task. Eighty-seven per cent of participants underestimated how compliant people would be.The final two studies involved hundreds of people recruited via Amazon's Mechanical Turk online survey website. The participants were to imagine they were either the "actor," the "instigator," or a neutral party in a range of hypothetical scenarios involving such things as buying beer for underage kids, illegally downloading a movie, claiming expenses on personal dinners and so on.The key finding was that people playing the role of actor said they'd feel a lot more uncomfortable if a friend or colleague (the instigator) nudged them toward behaving unethically (e.g. by saying it's stupid to pay for a movie you can get for free), compared with advising them to behave ethically. By contrast, those participants playing the role of instigator, or a neutral party, did not anticipate that the actor would experience this difference in social discomfort depending on the nature of the advice they received.This result fits the researchers' belief, that the reason we underestimate how willing other people will be to comply with our unethical requests is because of a failure to take their perspective. The "truly startling" finding from this work, the researchers said, is not how many people are willing to lie or vandalise, but rather "the lack of awareness people appear to have of this tendency when they are in a position to influence someone else's ethical behaviour."Other possible reasons for the results, Bohns and her colleagues suggested, are that recipients of unethical requests reframe them as prosocial acts - after all, they're helping someone out - or maybe their compliance is simply a way to win popularity. Future research could examine these and other possible explanations.This new research has echoes of Stanley Milgram's classic work. His students and colleagues dramatically underestimated how many participants would be willing to obey a scientist and administer a deadly electric shock. Thankfully there's also a positive twist to the phenomena documented here: similar past research has shown that we also underestimate how willing people will be to comply with our requests that they help in prosocial ways - such as lending their phone, or giving money to charity. _________________________________ Bohns VK, Roghanizad MM, and Xu AZ (2013). Underestimating Our Influence Over Others' Unethical Behavior and Decisions. Personality and social psychology bulletin PMID: 24327670 --Further reading--The Digest guide to influencing people.Want people to trust you? Try apologising for the rainPost written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
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Bohns VK, Roghanizad MM, & Xu AZ. (2013) Underestimating Our Influence Over Others' Unethical Behavior and Decisions. Personality . PMID: 24327670
How parasites affect their victims Parasitic worms influence the frequency of malformations and survival of marine snails... Read more »
Boraldo M.D., Ferrerira S.M., Jensen K.T., Pardal M.A. (2013) Impact of trematodes on the population structure and shell shape of the estuarine mud snail Hydrobia ulvae from a Southern European estuary. Marine Ecology. info:/DOI: 10.1111/maec.12086
Geophysicists are scouring the globe for evidence of mantle plumes — the presumed source of some mega-eruptions.
Further reading... Read more »
Scientists have developed new DNA vaccine for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) that could prolong survival in cancer and can improve cancer treatment strategies.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF):
VEGF is a protein produced by cells to activate formation of blood vessels. This process helps in restoring the oxygen supply to the tissues in case of improper blood circulation. Although, it is a good process but in case of cancer, it is deadly as it provides oxygen to cancerous cells helping them to grow and spread.
Bevacizumab is an anticancer drug that slows the growth of new blood vessels and in this way we can say that bevacizumab is an anti-VEGF drug.
In the present study, scientists developed new DNA vaccine for VEGF using Hepatits B virus core (HBc) system and used against VEGF in mouse having cancer. “HBc protein was used as an epitope carrier to enhance the immunogenicity.” Scientists worked on vaccine allowing it activate humoral immunity without altering cellular immunity for VEGF.
They found that the vaccine reduced the growth of new blood vessels resulting in prolonged survival in mouse. “Overall, the present data first provided the potential activity to inhibit angiogenesis in cancer models, oxygen-induced retinopathy and laser-induced CNV models using DNA VEGF vaccine,” Researchers wrote.
According to scientists, this therapeutic strategy has relatively low cost and less treatment schedule as opposed to the present treatments of anti-VEGF/VEGFR antibodies such as the use of Bevacizumab.
You can work on the efficacy of the combination of VEGF DNA vaccination and chemotherapy or immunotherapy against cancer. Moreover, therapeutic model, which is mouse in this case, can also be changed for efficacy and modifications of this VEGF DNA vaccine can also be done to optimize efficacy.
Mariko Kyutoku et al. (2013). Development of novel DNA vaccine for VEGF in murine cancer model Scientific Reports DOI: 10.1038/srep03380... Read more »
Mariko Kyutoku et al. (2013) Development of novel DNA vaccine for VEGF in murine cancer model. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep03380
Stanford researchers have uncovered a vital clue about the mechanism behind a type of earthquake that originates deep within the Earth and accounts for a quarter of all temblors worldwide, some of which are strong enough to pose a safety hazard.... Read more »
Germán A. Prieto, Manuel Florez, Sarah A. Barrett, Gregory C. Beroza, Patricia Pedraza, Jose Faustino Blanco, & Esteban Poveda. (2013) Seismic evidence for thermal runaway during intermediate-depth earthquake rupture. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1002/2013GL058109
Cell under the microscopeCredit: iStockMuscle cell therapy to treat some degenerative diseases, including Muscular Dystrophy, is now a step closer, according to a new study by researchers from the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) at the Monash University.PhD Student Bianca Borchin and Associate Professor Tiziano Barberi have developed a method to generate skeletal muscle cells, paving the way for future applications in regenerative medicine.Scientists, for the first time, have found a way to isolate muscle precursor cells from pluripotent stem cells using a purification technique that allows them to differentiate further into muscle cells, providing a platform to test new drugs on human tissue in the lab. Pluripotent stem cells have the ability to become any cell in the human body including, skin, blood, brain matter and skeletal muscles that control movement.Read More... Read more »
Bianca Borchin, Joseph Chen, Tiziano Barberi. (2013) Derivation and FACS-Mediated Purification of PAX3 /PAX7 Skeletal Muscle Precursors from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells. Stem Cell Reports. DOI: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2013.10.007
Gut inflammation and autism.Laughing or smirking? Wikipedia Words which still have the ability to furrow brows and precipitate eye rolling. Whatever your views on this topic, whether based on science or politics or both, there is no getting away from the evidence suggestive that in SOME cases of autism, issues with that deepest, darkest realm - the gut - do seem to be present.Whether based on the presence of functional bowel issues (see here and here) or something rather more fundamental (see here), research continues to discover that the so-called second brain might have quite an important role to play in SOME cases of autism. This is not new news by the way (see here); the idea for which predates a certain [retracted] paper in 1998.The recent paper from the laboratory of Paul Patterson (see here) suggesting that there may be issues with gut permeability (the so-called leaky gut) in offspring of a mouse model of maternal immune activation (MIA) during pregnancy was surprising to say the least. Whilst quite a lot of the media on this study went for the gut bacteria angle and bacteria potentially influencing behaviour (again, not necessarily new news), the forgotten angle of that paper was how immune activation in mother mice might be quite importantly linked to gut physiology of offspring.As I see it, there's an important triad emerging in this area consisting of gut bacteria, gut barrier function and immune function potentially pertinent to lots of different issues and conditions. But what do I know?It is again with mouse models and autism in mind, that I'm posting about the study from Caroline de Theije and colleagues* and their suggestion that offspring of the valproic acid (VPA) mouse model of autism might similar show 'gastrointestinal issues'. In particular: "VPA in utero- exposed male offspring showed epithelial cell loss and neutrophil infiltration in the intestinal tract".The possible connection between foetal exposure to valproate and subsequent developmental outcomes has witnessed an explosion of interest this year (2013). Of course, the very fact that science has a VPA murine model of autism is testament to the fact that for quite a few years, there have been rumblings of a potentially important connection between the two factors. The recent data however, have led to some speculation which goes well beyond just correlation as per the paper by Harden**.Back to the de Theije paper, and as follows a well-trodden research routine, it was a case of exposing pregnant mice (not, I hasten to add the usual BTBR dangermouse of autism) to either saline or more actively, valproic acid. Offspring mice were then studied both behaviourally and physiologically, upon which, intestinal issues of the inflammatory kind were detected in the VPA exposed mice. The authors conclude that: "gender-specific inflammatory conditions are present in the small intestines of VPA in utero- exposed mice and are accompanied by a disturbed serotonergic system in the brain as well as in the intestinal tract". Ergo, brain and gut seem to be implicated in the VPA murine model of autism, and boy mice seem to be the more fragile ones which some might seem as fitting in with the current data on the sex ratio of autism.Similar to the MIA work, the VPA model with the gut in mind is at present solely focused on mouse models. Mouse models, in cold, hard scientific terms, tend to be good models to work with because well, they rely on mice not humans. Therein however, lies an issue: can a condition as complex and heterogeneous as autism really be recreated in mice? I'll leave the philosophers out there to ponder that question.Bearing such a methodological issue in mind, the identification of something potentially going on gut-wise in the VPA model might actually turn out to be a useful finding. Assuming that someone is able to replicate these findings, one might begin to question what happens when said intestinal inflammation is treated in the VPA exposed offspring, and whether there may be any implications for intervention in humans for example, with autism in mind but also with conditions headed under the banner of foetal valproate syndrome***. I note in another paper from de Theije and colleagues**** there does seem to be some interest in the "gut-to-brain connection" with autism in mind so perhaps this is something already under consideration by the authors.Perhaps even more speculatively, and with the recent Hsaio paper***** in mind, I should also ask the question of whether gut bacteria might be the next research target for the VPA mouse model of autism? Oh sorry, the authors have already thought of that******(what clever people).Some music to close. I'm actually quite taken by the updated version of 'Dream a little dream' by Mr Williams & Ms Allen if the truth be known. Not that I'm implying that anyone outside of my brood should be dreaming about me...----------* de Theije CGM. et al. Intestinal inflammation in a murine model of autism spectrum disorders. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Dec 6. pii: S0889-1591(13)00589-8.** Harden CL. In Utero Valproate Exposure and Autism: Long Suspected, Finally Proven. Epilepsy Currents. 2013; 13: 282-284.*** Kini U. Fetal valproate syndrome: a review. Paediatr Perinatal Drug Therapy. 2006; 7: 123-130.**** de Theije CGM. et al. Pathways underlying the gut-to-brain connection in autism spectrum disorders as future targets for disease management. Eur J Pharmacol. 2011 Sep;668 Suppl 1:S70-80.***** Hsiao EY. et al. Microbiota Modulate Behavioral and Physiological Abnormalities Associated with Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Cell. 2013 Dec 3. pii: S0092-8674(13)01473-6.****** de Theije CGM. et al. Altered gut microbiota and activity in a murine model of autism spectrum disorders. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Dec 11.-----------... Read more »
de Theije CG, Koelink PJ, Korte-Bouws GA, Silva SL, Mechiel Korte S, Olivier B, Garssen J, & Kraneveld AD. (2013) Intestinal inflammation in a murine model of autism spectrum disorders. Brain Behav Immun. DOI: 10.1016/j.bbi.2013.12.004
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), known colloquially as “good cholesterol”, protects against dangerous deposits in the arteries. An important function of HDL is its anti-inflammatory properties. An international research team at the Institute of Innate Immunity at the University Hospital of Bonn and the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn has identified a central switch by which HDL controls the inflammatory response. The results are presented in the current issue of “Nature Immunology”.... Read more »
De Nardo D, Labzin LI, Kono H, Seki R, Schmidt SV, Beyer M, Xu D, Zimmer S, Lahrmann C, Schildberg FA.... (2013) High-density lipoprotein mediates anti-inflammatory reprogramming of macrophages via the transcriptional regulator ATF3. Nature immunology. PMID: 24317040
Cruz PM, Mo H, McConathy WJ, Sabnis N, & Lacko AG. (2013) The role of cholesterol metabolism and cholesterol transport in carcinogenesis: a review of scientific findings, relevant to future cancer therapeutics. Frontiers in pharmacology, 119. PMID: 24093019
The crying was associated with a sorrowful facial expression, sobbing body movements, and a voice inflected with sadness. These physical manifestations ended with the termi- nation of stimulation and the patient described feeling sad, but could not express the trigger for the sadness or crying. Results were consistent and reproducible. I have previously wondered why […]... Read more »
Burghardt T, Basha MM, Fuerst D, & Mittal S. (2013) Crying with sorrow evoked by electrocortical stimulation. Epileptic disorders : international epilepsy journal with videotape, 15(1), 72-5. PMID: 23531727
This image was provided by the CDC and the Partnership, Inc. Available at Wikimedia Commons.Studies of the spread of infectious diseases have shown that behavior plays a strong role in which individuals are more likely to be infected and which ones aren't. For example, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more commonly diagnosed in people that have more sexual partners. But despite our understanding of how diseases are spread among people, we know very little about the spread of diseases among wild animals. Do their personalities play a role in the spread of wildlife diseases? This week at Accumulating Glitches I talk about personalities in deer mice and the role they play in the spread of hantavirus. Check it out here. And to learn more, check this out:Dizney L, & Dearing MD (2013). The role of behavioural heterogeneity on infection patterns: implications for pathogen transmission. Animal behaviour, 86 (5) PMID: 24319292 ... Read more »
Dizney L, & Dearing MD. (2013) The role of behavioural heterogeneity on infection patterns: implications for pathogen transmission. Animal behaviour, 86(5). PMID: 24319292
As the US seeks to expand its wind energy sector, a new study sheds greater light on the impact of wind turbines on wildlife. ... Read more »
Scott R. Loss, Tom Will, & Peter P. Mara. (2013) Estimates of bird collision mortality at wind facilities in the contiguous United States. Biological Conservation, 201-209. DOI: 10.1016/j.biocon.2013.10.007
Over the years we’ve seen some real shifts in the needs of the trainees in our UCSC Genome Browser workshops. At first, people just needed access to the reference genome and the data that was available (and boy, has that changed over the years–time travel back with this post!). But as researchers around the world […]... Read more »
Raney B. J., Dreszer T. R., Barber G. P., Clawson H., Fujita P. A., Wang T., Nguyen N., Paten B., Zweig A. S., & Karolchik D. (2013) Track data hubs enable visualization of user-defined genome-wide annotations on the UCSC Genome Browser. Bioinformatics. DOI: 10.1093/bioinformatics/btt637
In a new project dubbed AGORA, researchers are working to remove the discrepancies among different computer models of galaxy formation by comparing different codes against each other.
The project AGORA is the short form for Assembling Galaxies of Resolved Anatomy. “We investigate galaxy formation with high-resolution numerical simulations and compare the results across different platforms, and with observation,” Project AGORA website noted.
Nine codes, nine galaxy formation scenarios: this is the sort of problem that AGORA is devoting itself to resolving by comparing different supercomputer simulations. (Credit: Simulations performed by Samuel Leitner (ART-II), Ji-hoon Kim (ENZO), Oliver Hahn (GADGET-2- CFS), Keita Todoroki (GADGET-3), Alexander Hobbs (GADGET-3-CFS and GADGET-3-AFS), Sijing Shen (GASOLINE), Michael Kuhlen (PKDGRAV-2), and Romain Teyssier (RAMSES))
Nine codes, nine galaxy formation scenarios: this is the sort of problem that AGORA is devoting itself to resolving by comparing different supercomputer simulations.
(Credit: Simulations performed by Samuel Leitner (ART-II), Ji-hoon Kim (ENZO), Oliver Hahn (GADGET-2- CFS), Keita Todoroki (GADGET-3), Alexander Hobbs (GADGET-3-CFS and GADGET-3-AFS), Sijing Shen (GASOLINE), Michael Kuhlen (PKDGRAV-2), and Romain Teyssier (RAMSES))
“The physics of galaxy formation is extremely complicated, and the range of lengths, masses, and timescales that need to be simulated is immense,” stated Piero Madau, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz and co-chair of the AGORA steering committee.
“You incorporate gravity, solve the equations of hydrodynamics, and include prescriptions for gas cooling, star formation, and energy injection from supernovae into the code. After months of number crunching on a powerful supercomputer, you look at the results and wonder if that is what nature is really doing or if some of the outcomes are actually artifacts of the particular numerical implementation you used.”
This project would increase our knowledge about the dark matter and its effects on universe as this object is hard to study physically at this time and such models are the best source to study them.
Project AGORA - http://goo.gl/xuYEKk
Worldwide collaboration announces project AGORA: Ambitious comparison of high-resolution computer simulations of galaxy formation and evolution - University of California (http://goo.gl/RiZLER)
Astrophysicists launch ambitious assessment of galaxy formation simulations - University of California (http://goo.gl/2yt6qB)
Ji-hoon Kim, Tom Abel, Oscar Agertz, Greg L. Bryan, Daniel Ceverino, Charlotte Christensen, Charlie Conroy, Avishai Dekel, Nickolay Y. Gnedin, Nathan J. Goldbaum, Javiera Guedes, Oliver Hahn, Alexander Hobbs, Philip F. Hopkins, Cameron B. Hummels, Francesca Iannuzzi, Dusan Keres, Anatoly Klypin, Andrey V. Kravtsov, Mark R. Krumholz, Michael Kuhlen, Samuel N. Leitner, Piero Madau, Lucio Mayer, Christopher E. Moody, Kentaro Nagamine, Michael L. Norman, Jose Oñorbe, Brian W. O'Shea, Annalisa Pillepich, Joel R. Primack, Thomas Quinn, Justin I. Read, Brant E. Robertson, Miguel Rocha, Douglas H. Rudd, Sijing Shen, Britton D. Smith, Alexander S. Szalay, Romain Teyssier, Robert Thompson, Keita Todoroki, Matthew J. Turk, James W. Wadsley, John H. Wise, Adi Zolotov, & for the AGORA Collaboration (2013). The AGORA High-Resolution Galaxy Simulations Comparison Project arXiv arXiv: 1308.2669v4... Read more »
Ji-hoon Kim, Tom Abel, Oscar Agertz, Greg L. Bryan, Daniel Ceverino, Charlotte Christensen, Charlie Conroy, Avishai Dekel, Nickolay Y. Gnedin, Nathan J. Goldbaum.... (2013) The AGORA High-Resolution Galaxy Simulations Comparison Project. arXiv. arXiv: 1308.2669v4
Health experts say we aren't eating enough fruit. Perhaps psychology can help. Try this. Picture yourself eating a portion of fruit tomorrow - an apple, say, or a couple of plums. Take your time. Focus on the colours, the consistency, the flavour. Visualise where you are at the time, and what you are doing.Do you think this simple imagery task will have increased the likelihood you will eat fruit tomorrow? A new study led by Catherine Adams attempted to find out. Over two hundred volunteers were split into three groups. One performed the fruit imagery task, another group did the same thing but for a biscuit bar of their choice (examples they were given included flapjacks, Kellogg's Elevenses and Jaffa Cake bars), and a final group did not perform an imagery task.Straight after, the participants answered questions about their food preferences, future consumption intentions, and they were offered a reward from a basket of fruits and biscuit bars. Two days later they were also asked by email whether they had any eaten fruit or a biscuit bars the day before (35 per cent of them answered this).Once the researchers controlled for background factors (such as the possibility there were more fruit lovers in one condition or the other), they found that the fruit imagery task made no difference to participants' intentions to eat fruit, no difference to their choice of fruit as a reward, nor their consumption of fruit the next day, as compared with the control group who didn't perform the imagery. For the biscuit bar group, the imagery task increased their intentions to eat biscuit bars in the future, but didn't actually alter their consumption (as compared against the no-imagery control group)."These effects suggest different effects for different visualised behaviours," the researchers said. "Further investigation is needed before recommending visualisation for increasing fruit consumption."As the researchers' acknowledged, there are some issues with the study that mean caution is needed in interpreting the results. For instance, just one brief imagery session may well be inadequate. Also, other research suggests imagery works best when combined with other strategies, such as "if-then" implementation plans (e.g. If I am hungry, then I will snack on some fruit). The response rate to the follow-up email was also disappointing, and bear in mind that participants may have felt the food they chose immediately after the imagery was a form of reward, and therefore may not reflect their usual eating choices. These issues show how difficult health behaviour research can be._________________________________ Adams C, Rennie L, Uskul AK, and Appleton KM (2013). Visualising future behaviour: Effects for snacking on biscuit bars, but no effects for snacking on fruit. Journal of health psychology PMID: 24217063 --Further reading--The Digest guide to willpowerLess is more when it comes to beating bad habitsIf-then plans help protect us from the 'to hell with it' effectThe mindbus technique for resisting chocolate - should we climb aboard?Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.
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Adams C, Rennie L, Uskul AK, & Appleton KM. (2013) Visualising future behaviour: Effects for snacking on biscuit bars, but no effects for snacking on fruit. Journal of health psychology. PMID: 24217063
Dogs are social creatures, but while some dogs clearly love to visit dog parks, others seem less happy about it. New research by Ottenheimer Carrier et al (Memorial University of Newfoundland) investigates whether the dog park is stressful, and what dogs do there.Photo: Gerald Marella / ShutterstockDog parks are open spaces, usually fenced, where dogs can be off-leash. They are particularly useful in municipalities where leash laws mean there are few spaces for dogs to run free. The researchers recruited owners at a dog park and asked if their dogs could take part. Eleven dogs took part in the first study, in which saliva samples were collected before and after a walk, before arrival at the dog park, and after being in the dog park for about twenty minutes. Because some samples did not get enough saliva, full results were available for six dogs. The results showed that salivary cortisol levels were higher after 20 minutes in the dog park compared to before they arrived. There was no difference in levels before and after a walk.Sixty dogs aged 6 months to 15.5 years took part in the second study. 81% were spayed or neutered, and all but one were medium or large breeds because the park was for dogs over 12kg. Owners completed a questionnaire about their dog, including the frequency of visiting the park, and canine personality scales. Each dog was videoed for twenty minutes, and then a saliva sample was taken.The videos were analyzed to see how dogs spent their time. Five dogs were not included in this analysis because, during the time of the video, they were alone or one of only two in the park and hence did not have chance to interact with several other dogs. For the remaining dogs, there were typically seven dogs in the park at any one time.Forty per cent of the time was spent near to a human, either with a human alone or with a mixed group of human(s) and dogs. The size of the dog park could have had something to do with this. Dogs spent about a third of their time alone, and about a quarter with other dogs in groups or more.There was a correlation between play behaviour and mounting. There was also a correlation between stress behaviour (such as a tucked tail) and a hunched posture. Almost all of the dogs displayed a stress-related behaviour at some point, and 83% displayed at least one play signal/behaviour. Older dogs were less active, and younger dogs were more playful.The owners’ ratings of their dog’s amicability were linked to the frequency of play signals and behaviours. Ratings of extraversion linked to how much time was spent in a pair with another dog. The dogs who visited the dog park the least had the highest cortisol levels, suggesting that they found it stressful. Dogs that had already visited the park within the previous week showed fewer stress-related behaviours than dogs that had not visited as recently. So what does this mean for your dog? The scientists say “Owners of dogs showing lowered posture in the dog park might be advised to reconsider exposing their dog to this setting for welfare reasons. Most dogs, however, especially those which owners rate as physically active and friendly, appear to have overall positive experiences in the dog park, and likely benefit from the physical activity and social interactions that such a setting provides.”Does your dog like to visit the dog park?Reference:Ottenheimer Carrier, L., Cyr, A., Anderson, R.E., & Walsh, C.J. (2013). Exploring the dog park: Relationships between social behaviours, personality and cortisol in companion dogs Applied Animal Behaviour Science , 146, 96-106 DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.04.002... Read more »
Ottenheimer Carrier, L., Cyr, A., Anderson, R.E., & Walsh, C.J. (2013) Exploring the dog park: Relationships between social behaviours, personality and cortisol in companion dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science , 96-106. DOI: 10.1016/j.applanim.2013.04.002
Phospholipids are just one type of lipid in all cells. The fatty acids are the precursor to all kinds of lipids, but in some cases they have been modified to such a degree that they are not identifiable. The fatty acids are showing interesting functions, such as a new study showing that the levels of odd chain fatty acids can be used to monitor rumen health in cattle. The omega fatty acids are also becoming important in the treatment and prevention of depression. A new study shows that in American women, the levels of omega three acids and self-reported symptoms of depression are inversely proportional. Finally, it seems that fatty acids in lipid droplets serve as a reservoir for excess histone proteins, which can be toxic to the cell if left unsequestered. Low lipid droplet levels lead to poor development in fruit flies.... Read more »
Beydoun MA, Fanelli Kuczmarski MT, Beydoun HA, Hibbeln JR, Evans MK, & Zonderman AB. (2013) ω-3 Fatty Acid Intakes Are Inversely Related to Elevated Depressive Symptoms among United States Women. The Journal of nutrition, 143(11), 1743-52. PMID: 24005610
Li Z, Thiel K, Thul PJ, Beller M, Kühnlein RP, & Welte MA. (2012) Lipid droplets control the maternal histone supply of Drosophila embryos. Current biology : CB, 22(22), 2104-13. PMID: 23084995
Vlaeminck B, Dufour C, van Vuuren AM, Cabrita AR, Dewhurst RJ, Demeyer D, & Fievez V. (2005) Use of odd and branched-chain fatty acids in rumen contents and milk as a potential microbial marker. Journal of dairy science, 88(3), 1031-42. PMID: 15738238
The hormonal mayhem, reduced fertility and hot flushes experienced by a woman in the run up to menopause may owe much to warfare between her own genes, according to a team of scientists working in the United Kingdom and Japan.... Read more »
Francisco Úbeda, Hisashi Ohtsuki, & Andy Gardner. (2013) Ecology drives intragenomic conflict over menopause. Ecology Letters. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12208
by Rita Handrich in The Jury Room
It’s been a while since we’ve done an update on neurolaw in the courtroom. The idea that pretty and colorful pictures of the brain (aka fMRIs) can give us a window into motivations, intent, and the creepiness of others captures our imagination. New research though, cautions us that perhaps (like the vast over-estimations of the […]
Confused about brain scans? Welcome to the club!
Defending the Psychopath: “His brain made him do it”
On brains, brain damage, pedophilia and other things we don’t like
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Hook CJ, & Farah MJ. (2013) Look again: effects of brain images and mind-brain dualism on lay evaluations of research. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 25(9), 1397-405. PMID: 23879877
Schweitzer NJ, Baker DA, & Risko EF. (2013) Fooled by the brain: re-examining the influence of neuroimages. Cognition, 129(3), 501-11. PMID: 24041836
Investigators have found that they can use PET plastic bottles as raw-material to manufacture a biomaterial, which will disrupt fungi cells’ outer membrane. Therefore, it prevents the fungi’s cell division and ultimately, it causes the fungi’s death.... Read more »
Fukushima K, Liu S, Wu H, Engler AC, Coady DJ, Maune H, Pitera J, Nelson A, Wiradharma N, Venkataraman S.... (2013) Supramolecular high-aspect ratio assemblies with strong antifungal activity. Nature communications, 2861. PMID: 24316819
Air pollution.I'm pretty sure most people are aware of all the talk about air pollution these days and how the human body is not particularly fond of air pollution in terms of potential adverse health outcomes (assuming that is, you leave things like selenium out of the equation). If you happen to live in China, I'm sure your mind was put at ease when reading about 'The Five Surprising Gains from the Smog'... or maybe not.Most people generally find it easier to accept that air pollution might show a possible connection with something like respiratory diseases for example, given that the airways are generally a first point of entry for said pollution getting access to the body (although not the only route). Mention that something like autism risk for example, might also be linked to air pollution exposure and I'm sure that a significant degree of eye-rolling begins, alongside mutterings of the old 'correlation is not the same as causation' argument. The Alchemist @ Wikipedia Personally I'm quite intrigued by the results emerging looking at something like childhood or maternal exposure to air pollution and proximity to sources of air pollution being linked to child or offspring autism risk. In these times of the autisms and various external forces implicated in autism risk (think valproate for example and the recent special reminder from the MHRA on this matter; even someone mentioning the word 'proven'  as if such a thing exists) I don't think we can rule most things out yet.You have for example, the data from Heather Volk and colleagues  which was talked about in this post compounded by the data from Tracy Ann Becerra and colleagues  (see this post) both quite recently pinpointing something of a statistical association at least. That and other studies looking at a possible association.Enter then another study by Volk and colleagues  which adds another layer of intrigue and complexity to the air pollution link by suggesting that a certain kind of genotype combined with air pollution exposure might elevate the risk of autism. There has been some media coverage of this paper (see here).I suppose the first thing to take from the latest Volk paper is it's concentration on gene x environment interactions potentially modifying the risk of something like autism. I'm sure readers are used to hearing about [variable] gene-environment interactions quite loudly proclaimed these days as accounting for the presence of autism, but to see a study looking experimentally at the issue is very refreshing.The next thing to note about the Volk paper is the specific focus on the MET receptor tyrosine kinase (MET) gene and a particular version of this gene potentially interacting with something like air pollution. In the post titled: 'I'm glad I MET you' (no prizes for the headline there) I talked about some other rather interesting findings when it came to MET and autism. Alongside all the chatter about things like synaptic development which MET has been tied to  was the suggestion that "the functional MET promoter variant rs1858830 C allele was strongly associated with the presence of an ASD-specific 37+73-kDa band pattern of maternal autoantibodies to fetal brain proteins (P=0.003)" as per the paper from Heuer and colleagues . Maternal autoantibodies, as regular readers might know, are an upcoming area with autism risk in mind (see here).It is then perhaps no surprise that the MET rs1858830 genotype, same as that one looked at with maternal autoantibodies in mind, was also the focus on the recent Volk paper and in particular the 'CC' genotype (see here for some information on zygosity). This genotype seems to be one which is more commonly noted in relation to cases of autism . Indeed, based on an analysis of participants involved with the CHARGE initiative (beincharge!) the authors suggested: "Subjects with both MET rs1858830 CC genotype and high air pollutant exposures were at increased risk of autism spectrum disorder compared with subjects who had both the CG/GG genotypes and lower air pollutant exposures". Big words, I'm sure you'll agree.These results are obviously crying out for replication for starters. The focus of this study was (a) on one gene, one specific variant of one gene, in our entire genome (b) looking at structural issues with said gene not necessarily gene function as per that rising star which is epigenetics for example might have on gene expression, and (c) based on air pollution exposure estimates from "local traffic-related sources and regional sources (particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide, and ozone)". With those factors in mind, caution still needs to be applied to these results before anyone goes and tries to for example, market any sort of genetic test for air pollution related autism or anything similar... Oh and 'steering clear of cities' is probably not a realistic option for most people either. Indeed, even residing in the countryside has been linked to autism risk (see here).But still I'm interested in these results and indeed, the next question of biological processes from genes to environment to development and behaviour.--------- Harden CL. In Utero Valproate Exposure and Autism: Long Suspected, Finally Proven. Epilepsy Currents 2013; November/December 2013: 13; 282-284. Volk HE. et al. Traffic-related air pollution, particulate matter, and autism. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013 Jan;70(1):71-7. Becerra TA. et al. Ambient air pollution and autism in Los Angeles county, California. Environ Health Perspect. 2013 Mar;121(3):380-6. Volk HE. et al. Autism Spectrum Disorder: Interaction of Air Pollution with the MET Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Gene. Epidemiology. 2013 Nov 14. Judson MC. et al. A new synaptic player leading to autism risk: Met receptor tyrosine kinase. J Neurodev Disord. 2011 Sep;3(3):282-92. Heuer L. et al. Association of a MET genetic variant with autism-associated maternal autoan... Read more »
Volk HE, Kerin T, Lurmann F, Hertz-Picciotto I, McConnell R, & Campbell DB. (2013) Autism Spectrum Disorder: Interaction of Air Pollution with the MET Receptor Tyrosine Kinase Gene. Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.). PMID: 24240654
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