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  • December 18, 2014
  • 02:35 PM
  • 7 views

Gene fragments linked to brain development and autism

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

While the anti-vaccine movement enjoys the simple (and very wrong) answer to the cause of autism, there are people who want the actual truth. This drive had lead to a slew of causes (and risk factors) for autism in recent times. Now scientists have found that very small segments of genes called “microexons” influence how proteins interact with each other in the nervous system. In turn, this opens up a new line of research into the cause of autism.... Read more »

Irimia, M., Weatheritt, R., Ellis, J., Parikshak, N., Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis, T., Babor, M., Quesnel-Vallières, M., Tapial, J., Raj, B., O’Hanlon, D.... (2014) A Highly Conserved Program of Neuronal Microexons Is Misregulated in Autistic Brains. Cell, 159(7), 1511-1523. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.11.035  

  • December 17, 2014
  • 02:54 PM
  • 28 views

Epigenetic changes and autism

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Despite what you may think, the supposed “explosion” of children diagnosed with autism can directly attributed to better diagnosing techniques and — more importantly — the change of definition to make Autism spectrum disorders more broad. Thankfully more causes of autism have been found, none of them remotely related to vaccines and now scientists have found that chemical modifications to DNA’s packaging—known as epigenetic changes—can activate or repress genes involved in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and early brain development.... Read more »

Gao, Z., Lee, P., Stafford, J., von Schimmelmann, M., Schaefer, A., & Reinberg, D. (2014) An AUTS2–Polycomb complex activates gene expression in the CNS. Nature, 516(7531), 349-354. DOI: 10.1038/nature13921  

Ntziachristos, P., Tsirigos, A., Welstead, G., Trimarchi, T., Bakogianni, S., Xu, L., Loizou, E., Holmfeldt, L., Strikoudis, A., King, B.... (2014) Contrasting roles of histone 3 lysine 27 demethylases in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Nature, 514(7523), 513-517. DOI: 10.1038/nature13605  

  • December 16, 2014
  • 02:37 PM
  • 39 views

Methamphetamine use and the onset of parkinson’s

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

We’ve all seen the PSA’s trying to show the effects of meth use and in particular, what it does to your teeth. Typically, when it comes to drug use, people will not look at the long term side effects from their addiction instead thinking in the short term. This is unfortunate because as it turns out, methamphetamine users are three times more at risk for getting Parkinson’s disease than non-illicit drug users with even worse news for women, new research shows.... Read more »

  • December 16, 2014
  • 07:14 AM
  • 54 views

The scientific community’s Galileo affair (you’re the Pope)

by Richard Kunert in Brain's Idea

Science is in crisis. Everyone in the scientific community knows about it but few want to talk about it. The crisis is one of honesty. A junior scientist (like me) asks himself a similar question to Galileo in 1633: how much honesty is desirable in science? Science Wonderland According to nearly all empirical scientific publications […]... Read more »

  • December 15, 2014
  • 03:07 PM
  • 66 views

Finding the neurons that deal with distraction

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

What’s that over there!? The next time you are around people, count how many people are on their phone? Distractions invade every aspect of our lives. Status updates, text messages, email notifications all threaten to steal our attention away from the moment. While we fight the urge to check the phone, our brains are making constant judgment calls about where to focus attention. The brain must continually filter important information from irrelevant interference.... Read more »

Ahrens, S., Jaramillo, S., Yu, K., Ghosh, S., Hwang, G., Paik, R., Lai, C., He, M., Huang, Z., & Li, B. (2014) ErbB4 regulation of a thalamic reticular nucleus circuit for sensory selection. Nature Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1038/nn.3897  

  • December 14, 2014
  • 01:28 PM
  • 76 views

Scientists find a drug (currently used) to turn white fat to brown

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

It seems like we’ve been on a weight loss campaign here at the labs, but there just has been so much new and interesting research on the subject to report on, this is no exception. Researchers have uncovered the mechanism by which white fat cells from humans (an important distinction) gets reprogrammed to become browner.... Read more »

Anne Loft, Isabel Forss, Majken Storm Siersbæk, Søren Fisker Schmidt, Ann-Sofie Bøgh Larsen, Jesper Grud Skat Madsen, Didier F. Pisani, Ronni Nielsen, Mads Malik Aagaard, Angela Mathison.... (2014) Browning of human adipocytes requires KLF11 and reprogramming of PPARγ superenhancers. Genes . info:/10.1101/gad.250829.114

  • December 14, 2014
  • 12:47 PM
  • 64 views

Sulfur hydride blows away previous critical temperature limits for conventional superconductivity

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Researchers at Max Planck have revived interest in conventional BCS superconductivity after finding a zero resistance phase of H2S at 190 K!... Read more »

A. P. Drozdov, M. I. Eremets, & I. A. Troyan. (2014) Conventional superconductivity at 190 K at high pressures. arXiv. arXiv: 1412.0460v1

  • December 14, 2014
  • 07:57 AM
  • 60 views

Increasing Rigor in Huntington’s Disease Research

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

The CHDI Foundation, a charitable organization who fund a lot of research into Huntington's disease, are interested in reforming the scientific process.


The story comes from a paper written by British neuroscientist Marcus Munafo and colleagues (the authors including CHDI staff) published in Nature Biotechnology a couple of months ago: Scientific rigor and the art of motorcycle maintenance.



Munafo et al. begin by pointing to the history of car manufacturing as an analogy for the scie... Read more »

Munafo M, Noble S, Browne WJ, Brunner D, Button K, Ferreira J, Holmans P, Langbehn D, Lewis G, Lindquist M.... (2014) Scientific rigor and the art of motorcycle maintenance. Nature Biotechnology, 32(9), 871-3. PMID: 25203032  

  • December 14, 2014
  • 04:48 AM
  • 62 views

Beware the inflated science related press release!

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I'm not normally minded to post on a Sunday (day of rest and all that) but I did want to bring your attention to the results presented by Petroc Sumner and colleagues [1] (open-access) concluding that: "Exaggeration in news is strongly associated with exaggeration in press releases" when it comes to the media reporting of [some] health-related science news.The idea behind this particular study - which has been summarised pretty well in some of the accompanying media and in an editorial in the publishing journal [2] - was to look at the contribution of the press release (the 'look at me' part of some science publishing) to those sometimes 'inflated' health science headlines which we all encounter on a day-to-day basis. The results suggested that whilst [some] journalists and editors might need a refresher course on some of the basics of science (including the concept of probability and risk), academic press offices and even the very academics behind said research might also have to shoulder some responsibility (bearing in mind correlation is not the same as causation!) So when for example, a mouse study correlating the presence of compound X with improvement in the [mouse] condition Y is interpreted as meaning that compound X is the elixir of life for Homo sapiens and that we should instantly rush out and buy as much of it as we can afford, look to the press release before blaming the newspaper. I exaggerate of course with that example.So as not to keep you from your Sunday breakfast or that magnificent Sunday lunch you no doubt have planned/are eating, I'm not going to say much more about this topic aside from making two additional points:(a) Post-publication peer-review is mentioned somewhere in one of the texts. Although this is traditionally meant to imply that researchers who have a beef about some study or interpretation of results send a letter to the publishing (or other) journal outlining their issues, there are quite a few other mediums these days which seem to get the job done just as well. You are reading one of those mediums - yes, bloggers of the world unite - and how on occasion, blog entries have talked about press releases and peer-reviewed results not quite tallying together. I dare say someone somewhere might eventually start a blog titled something like: 'pressing ahead: press release vs. actual results' if it hasn't already been done. Other social media might also play an important role in highlighting discrepancies.(b) Although interesting, the Sumner results perhaps leave out one very important variable in this scientific producer - consumer relationship: the consumer. You might well scoff that anyone without a PhD or related qualification 'doesn't understand science' but I would say that you are wrong. Although there are people out there who actually believe the term 'scientifically proven', as if God himself endorsed the product, I'd suggest that there are enough people who don't believe every headline they read and are vocal enough to say so. Search engines such as Google do a pretty good job of ensuring that anyone researching a scientific claim important to them (which most people do these days) quickly get both sides of the story. In that respect, an inflated press release (which are also generally detectable on the web) will probably not stay inflated for too long. Probably less so, after this and other research [3] starts to percolate through the web...Without further ado, I'll leave you to finish of your 'super-food' packed Sunday lunch. And just in case anyone is interested, a few things to bear in mind when reading and interpreting science...----------[1] Sumner P. et al. The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study. BMJ 2014; 349: g7015.[2] Goldacre B. Preventing bad reporting on health research. BMJ 2014; 349: g7465.[3] Woloshin S. et al. Press releases by academic medical centers: not so academic? Ann Intern Med. 2009 May 5;150(9):613-8.----------Sumner, P., Vivian-Griffiths, S., Boivin, J., Williams, A., Venetis, C., Davies, A., Ogden, J., Whelan, L., Hughes, B., Dalton, B., Boy, F., & Chambers, C. (2014). The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study BMJ, 349 (dec09 7) DOI: 10.1136/bmj.g7015... Read more »

  • December 13, 2014
  • 01:51 PM
  • 80 views

High fat diet leads to brain inflammation and obesity

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

The stomach strikes again, or so it seems. We’ve already covered how your stomach seemingly controls your brain and your blood-brain barrier, but now it seems that what you eat –not too indirectly related to your stomach– might make you fatter, but not in the way you might be thinking thinking. What you are eating may be causing inflammation in the brain.... Read more »

  • December 12, 2014
  • 10:35 PM
  • 79 views

Guns And Controllers: Do Violent Video Games Cause Aggressive Behaviour? A Review Of Meta-Analytic Research

by Alexis Delanoir in How to Paint Your Panda

There is a lot of debate over whether or not violent video games manifest in violent behaviour. Consensus has not entirely been reached, but some suggest that the literature provides solid evidence for the hypothesis in question. In this post I examine meta-analytic reviews of the literature and weigh their significance, coming to the conclusion that violent video games most likely do cause aggressive behaviour and other negative social outcomes.... Read more »

  • December 12, 2014
  • 02:13 PM
  • 66 views

A new type of memory storage on the horizon

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

For those of us old enough to remember the days of the Apple II, you know that storage has exponentially increased. Even just 10 years ago 20+ gigs of data seemed huge, now my cellphone has 64 gigs. Yet we still need more data storage and we are looking for new ways to get it. Now a way to use weak molecular bonding interactions to create well-ordered and stable metal–organic monolayers with optoelectronic properties has been found. The development could form the basis for the scalable fabrication of molecular optoelectronic devices.... Read more »

  • December 12, 2014
  • 03:32 AM
  • 72 views

Party On! (If You're Middle-Class and Young): Age Differences Explain Social Class Differences in University Friendships

by Mark Rubin in Mark Rubin's Social Psychology Research Blog

In a recent meta-analytic review, I found that working-class students are less integrated at university than their middle-class peers. I offered up nine potential explanations for this working-class exclusion effect. It turns out that one of the simplest explanations in this list is also the most promising. It’s all to do with age.Working-class students tend to be older than middle-class students. Why? Most likely because they don’t tend to go to university immediately after school but instead get out into the real world and earn a bit of money before accumulating the financial security to upskill in higher education (James, 2000). So, there tends to be a negative correlation between social class and age at university. Younger students tend to be middle-class school leavers, and older students tend to be more mature-aged, worldly-wise students.In some recent research, Chrysalis Wright and I found that age differences help to explain social class differences in students’ friendships. We surveyed 376 first-year undergraduate psychology students, asking them how many friends they had at uni and how much their friends mattered to their identity. We found that working-class students had fewer identity-relevant friends and regarded the friends that they did have as being less relevant to their identity. Moreover, we found that age differences explained this social class effect.Put Your Hands Up!...Unless you have kids and no money to go out!So what? Well, as I’ve argued elsewhere, a potentially important method of improving working-class students’ academic outcomes is to improve the quality and quantity of their university friendships. University friends can help to explain coursework assignments, remind one another about due dates, act as study buddies, provide a shoulder to cry on during stressful periods, and instil a sense of belonging and institutional identification that increases degree commitment and persistence. Research has shown that working-class students are most in need of this type of support.What our current research shows is that any attempts at improving working-class students’ friendships need to taking their more mature age into account. So, night-time discos and parties might be fun for the 20-somethings, but it’s not a realistic approach to social integration for the more mature-aged, child-caring, working-class students. Likewise, on-campus accommodation is an excellent method of improving social integration at university, but this tried-and-tested approach needs to be adapted to take into account students’ social class, age, and concomitant family commitments.Last thing before I go! Our research found that working-class students had not only fewer friends than middle-class students but also less desire and concern about making new friends. Hence, simply providing opportunities for friendship-building is unlikely to be sufficient. Universities also need to motivate older working-class students to participate in social life at university, perhaps through the use of information campaigns that highlight the informational and emotional support that is provided by university friends.For more information about our research, please see the following paper:Rubin, M., & Wright, C. (2014). Age differences explain social class differences in students’ friendship at university: Implications for transition and retention Higher Education DOI: 10.1007/s10734-014-9844-8Please click here for a self-archived version. ... Read more »

  • December 11, 2014
  • 08:27 PM
  • 81 views

Depression And Stress/Mood Disorders: Causes Of Repetitive Negative Thinking And Ruminations

by Alexis Delanoir in How to Paint Your Panda

Repetitive Negative Thinking (RNT) has been suggested to be of clinical significance as a transdiagnostic process. Research has been conducted to explain the causes of RNT and ruminations but is limited. This article explores the causes and possible solutions to RNT, as well as its clinical implications concerning mood and stress disorders such as major depressive disorder (MDD).... Read more »

Ehring, T., & Watkins, E. (2008) Repetitive Negative Thinking as a Transdiagnostic Process. International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, 1(3), 192-205. DOI: 10.1680/ijct.2008.1.3.192  

Gibb, B., Grassia, M., Stone, L., Uhrlass, D., & McGeary, J. (2011) Brooding Rumination and Risk for Depressive Disorders in Children of Depressed Mothers. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 40(2), 317-326. DOI: 10.1007/s10802-011-9554-y  

  • December 11, 2014
  • 12:08 PM
  • 61 views

What makes us fat, OR food vs. physiology

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

There is a heir of mystery surrounding weight loss and fat in general. Have you ever heard you have all the fat cells you’ll ever have — that’s false by the way. Then there is fad diets like gluten free — proven to do nothing unless you actually have a diagnosed gluten allergy — or adkins, but now researchers believe they’re on track to solve the mystery of weight gain – and it has nothing to do with indulging in holiday eggnog.... Read more »

Woeller CF, O'loughlin CW, Pollock SJ, Thatcher TH, Feldon SE, & Phipps RP. (2014) Thy1 (CD90) controls adipogenesis by regulating activity of the Src family kinase, Fyn. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. PMID: 25416548  

  • December 11, 2014
  • 07:00 AM
  • 70 views

Without it no music?

by Henkjan Honing in Music Matters

A short entry to announce a theme issue on Musicality in Philosophical Transactions B, to be out in February 2015... the year when the worlds first journal dedicated to science will celebrate its 350th anniversary.... Read more »

Honing H, ten Cate C, Peretz I, & Trehub SE. (2015) Without it no music: cognition, biology and evolution of musicality. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B. info:/10.1098/rstb.2014.0088

  • December 10, 2014
  • 04:51 PM
  • 68 views

Worms’ “mental GPS” could help improve mental health

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Imagine this, you’ve misplaced your cell phone. You start by scanning where you remember leaving it: on your bureau. You check and double-check the bureau before expanding your search around and below the bureau. Eventually, you switch from this local area to a more global one, widening your search to the rest of your room and beyond.... Read more »

Adam J Calhoun, Sreekanth H Chalasani, Tatyana O Sharpee. (2014) Maximally informative foraging by Caenorhabditis elegans. eLife. info:/http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.04220#sthash.lVQ5aANV.dpuf

  • December 10, 2014
  • 03:54 PM
  • 82 views

Depressed? Laughing gas might help

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, has shown early promise as a potential treatment for severe depression in patients whose symptoms don’t respond to standard therapies. In other words, it might actually live up to it’s name and as they say laughter is the best medicine. The pilot study is believed to be the first research in which patients with depression were given laughing gas.... Read more »

Nagele P, Duma A, Kopec M, Gebara MA, Parsoei A, Walker M, Janski A, Pahagopoulos VN, Cristancho P, Miller JP, Zorumski CF, Conway C . (2014) Nitrous oxide for treatment-resistant major depression: a proof-of-concept trial. Biological Psychiatry. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2014.11.016  

  • December 8, 2014
  • 06:50 PM
  • 65 views

Don't miss out! Dogs Science from November

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Catch up! Participate! Plan your conferences for 2015! Check out all the latest in canine science from November here, thanks to the magic of Storify (if you don't see a beautiful array of handy snippets below, please click this link to view)[View the story "Do You Believe in Dog? [01-30 November 2014]" on Storify]Further reading: Cobb M., Paul McGreevy, Alan Lill & Pauleen Bennett (2014). The advent of canine performance science: Offering a sustainable future for working dogs, Behavioural Processes, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2014.10.012 Hecht J. (2014). Citizen science: A new direction in canine behavior research, Behavioural Processes, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.beproc.2014.10.014Bradshaw J.W.S. & Rachel A. Casey (2009). Dominance in domestic dogs—useful construct or bad habit?, Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 4 (3) 135-144. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jveb.2008.08.004Gosling S.D. & Oliver P. John (2003). A Dog's Got Personality: A Cross-Species Comparative Approach to Personality Judgments in Dogs and Humans., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85 (6) 1161-1169. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.85.6.1161© Do You Believe in Dog? 2014... Read more »

  • December 8, 2014
  • 03:13 PM
  • 77 views

Scientists find a hormone that makes you fatter

by Gabriel in Lunatic Laboratories

Our waistlines are expanding, it’s no secret that around the world despite rampant hunger people are also getting fatter. While there are many things that are contributing to this — our increased food security, the cost of food, fast food, the increasing sugar supplied in food, etc — there are other theories as to why we are getting so heavy. Scientists have pointed towards bacteria, gut microbiota, and many other causes for our increased weight, now add to that list a common hormone that we all produce.... Read more »

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