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  • July 26, 2016
  • 09:22 AM

Fungi found flourishing following fire

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

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

  • July 26, 2016
  • 03:41 AM

Probiotics degrading gluten peptides - part 2

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

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

  • July 25, 2016
  • 09:04 PM

Wave that claw: how male crabs attract mates

by Emily Makowski in Sextraordinary!

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

  • July 25, 2016
  • 04:51 PM

Restiffic Foot Wrap for Restless Legs Syndrome

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

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

  • July 25, 2016
  • 04:40 PM

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

by Craig Payne in Running Research Junkie

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

... Read more »

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

  • July 25, 2016
  • 03:38 PM

Embryonic gene Nanog reverses aging in adult stem cells

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

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

... Read more »

  • July 25, 2016
  • 03:37 AM

Risk of cancer in mums of children with autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

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

  • July 24, 2016
  • 03:29 PM

Researchers temporarily turn off brain area to better understand function

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

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

... Read more »

  • July 24, 2016
  • 04:45 AM

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

by TakFurTheKaffe in Tak Fur The Kaffe

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

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

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

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

  • July 23, 2016
  • 05:30 PM

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

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

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

... Read more »

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

  • July 23, 2016
  • 09:41 AM

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

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

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

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

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

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

  • July 23, 2016
  • 04:17 AM

On probiotics and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

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

  • July 22, 2016
  • 03:38 PM

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

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

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

... Read more »

  • July 22, 2016
  • 12:25 PM

Video of Evaporating Booze Droplet Looks Like a Tiny Planet

by Elizabeth Preston in Inkfish

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

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

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

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

  • July 22, 2016
  • 11:50 AM

Altruistic people have more sex

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

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

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

  • July 22, 2016
  • 09:01 AM

Update on clinical trials and treatments for RCC

by Joana Guedes in BHD Research Blog

Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is the most common type of kidney cancer and although the majority of cases are sporadic approximately 3% of cases are caused by genetic conditions such as BHD, VHL, HLRCC and TSC (Randall et al., 2014). These inherited forms of RCC have provided great insights into sporadic cancer genetics. BHD patients can develop multiple kidney tumours. In most cases these tumours are small local RCCs that can be surgically removed. However, these treatments are not without risk, and sometimes complete nephrectomies are carried out which leave patients with severely reduced kidney function and at risk of recurrence. The development of selective drug treatments that target only cancer cells can therefore improve disease outcome and increase patient quality of life. Even though significant advances have been made in the treatment of kidney cancer, there is a need for effective and more tolerable treatments, both for single agent and combination use. This blog summarises recent results from clinical trials assessing new treatments.... Read more »

  • July 22, 2016
  • 03:01 AM

Surgery for "chronic idiopathic constipation" and autism

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I can't profess to be an expert on the techniques called sigmoidectomy and appendicostomy so won't even try and pretend that I am. From what I gather from Dr Google, the latter is a surgical technique generally performed to "help deliver enemas more easily" to relieve constipation, whilst the former involves the surgical removal of some or all of the sigmoid colon. Both are only generally indicated when traditional methods of treating constipation for example, fail.The reason I'm briefly talking about sigmoidectomy and appendicostomy today revolves around the paper by Luis De La Torre and colleagues [1] who following a review of 8 cases of "chronic idiopathic constipation complicated by megarectosigmoid and fecal incontinence" reported that half of their small cohort "have autism" whilst all "had severe social problems." They reported that after their surgery "all patients were having daily bowel movements without fecal accidents."For regular readers I probably don't have to stress the substantial weight of peer-reviewed scientific evidence suggesting that functional bowel issues are over-represented when it comes to a diagnosis of autism. For any newcomers straying onto this blog (a dangerous thing indeed!) I might direct you to one of my more recent entries on this important comorbidity (see here) and how despite some headline fails (see here) preferential screening for bowel issues should really follow an autism diagnosis. Add it to the list of screening potentially indicated...The observations made by De La Torre et al represent the extreme of tackling functional constipation as and when it appears and how such a bowel issue can not only wreck quality of life but also potentially put someone in a life-threatening situation (yes, it has sadly happened and with autism mentioned). Nobody likes the idea of surgically removing parts of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract nor 'creating a pathway from belly button to the large intestine' in any patient, less so when that patient may have autism and potentially other comorbidity leaving open significant debate on issues such as informed consent. But, given the current lack of knowledge about the hows and whys of constipation when it occurs alongside autism, I think we are going to see more and more extreme cases such as this in both the clinical and research domains.The onus therefore is on putting any prejudice aside when the words 'bowel' and 'autism' are strung together in the same sentence (see here) and making some real scientific strides into the mechanisms potentially involved in such over-representation. People diagnosed with autism and suffering some often quite terrible bowel issues deserve so much more than just further health inequality...----------[1] De La Torre L. et al. Primary sigmoidectomy and appendicostomy for chronic idiopathic constipation. Pediatr Surg Int. 2016 Jul 2.----------De La Torre L, Cogley K, Calisto J, Nace G, & Correa C (2016). Primary sigmoidectomy and appendicostomy for chronic idiopathic constipation. Pediatric surgery international PMID: 27372298... Read more »

De La Torre L, Cogley K, Calisto J, Nace G, & Correa C. (2016) Primary sigmoidectomy and appendicostomy for chronic idiopathic constipation. Pediatric surgery international. PMID: 27372298  

  • July 21, 2016
  • 03:01 PM

Artificial muscle for soft robotics: Low voltage, high hopes

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Soft robots do a lot of things well but they're not exactly known for their speed. The artificial muscles that move soft robots, called actuators, tend to rely on hydraulics or pneumatics, which are slow to respond and difficult to store.

... Read more »

  • July 21, 2016
  • 10:08 AM

The decline of biodiversity: Past the point of no return?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Mohi looks up at her mother. Confused. Afraid. Mother had always said that she had to keep her filtration veil on when they left their housedome. But now, here stood her mother, unveiled. The woman gifted an encouraging nod to her young daughter. Mohi removed her veil. Air! Light! The freshness of the breeze and […]... Read more »

Steffen W, Richardson K, Rockström J, Cornell SE, Fetzer I, Bennett EM, Biggs R, Carpenter SR, de Vries W, de Wit CA.... (2015) Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223). PMID: 25592418  

Newbold T, Hudson LN, Arnell AP, Contu S, De Palma A, Ferrier S, Hill SL, Hoskins AJ, Lysenko I, Phillips HR.... (2016) Has land use pushed terrestrial biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? A global assessment. Science, 353(6296), 288-91. PMID: 27418509  

Oliver TH. (2016) How much biodiversity loss is too much?. Science, 353(6296), 220-1. PMID: 27418489  

  • July 21, 2016
  • 08:49 AM

We're more prone to unintentionally plagiarise from others the same sex as us

by BPS Research Digest in BPS Research Digest

Look at some of the most high-profile plagiarism scandals, such as Joe Biden's supposed borrowing from Neil Kinnock, novelist Kaavya Viswanathan's "unintentional" plagiarism of Megan McCafferty and Meg Cabot, science writer Jonah Lehrer's lifting words from this blog, and this week, Melania Trump's echoing of phrases used previously by Michelle Obama (though a speech-writer has taken the blame for this).Notice a pattern?In each case, the alleged plagiarists copied others of the same sex. This is anecdotal of course and there are exceptions to the rule – for instance Viswanathan is also alleged to have copied from Salman Rushdie. And yet, maybe there is a psychological phenomenon at work here, especially in instances of unintentional plagiarism – known technically as cryptomnesia – where the plagiarist believes at a conscious level that their words are original, not remembering their true provenance.For a new study in the journal Memory, Timothy Hollins and his colleagues asked dozens of participants to attend the psych lab and, in pairs, to generate words fitting different subject categories such as Articles of Clothing, Fruit, or Four-Footed Animals. Crucially, some participants did this in same-sex pairs and others in opposite-sex pairs. A week later the participants were recalled to the lab where some of them had to recall just the ideas they'd produced, some had to recall just their partner's ideas, while others attempted to recall both their own and their partner's ideas at the same time under two separate lists.When asked to recall just their own ideas, or just their partner's, participants were more likely to make errors when their partner was the same sex as them – that is, mistakenly claiming their partner's ideas as their own, or more commonly, their own ideas as their partner's. Presumably having a partner of the same sex made it easier to confuse in memory whose ideas were whose. However, this effect of partner similarity was not present for those participants who were asked to recall separate lists of their own and their partner's ideas at the same time, showing that the confusing effect of partner similarity on memory was surmountable when given a more explicit prompt to make the distinction.In further, similar experiments with more participants, the researchers looked to see what effect it made at the recall stage whether a participant's partner was present or not. This time, the results showed that participants were more likely to mistakenly recall their partner's memories as their own when their partner was absent, but again only when asked to recall just their own memories, not when asked to list separately their own and their partner's memories. Presumably the presence of a partner made it easier (and more important) to remember whose ideas were whose, although this memory aid had no noticeable benefit when participants were prompted more explicitly to distinguish idea ownership through making separate lists. Admittedly, these interesting studies are far removed from plagiarism in the real world. As the researchers themselves noted: "Real world interactions, unlike our experiments, rarely involve people taking turns to generate solutions in the knowledge that their memory will be tested later. Additionally, our participants may not have been particularly motivated to claim ownership of generation of a category member in the way that they may care about the genesis of an original scientific idea, a business idea, or a creative output."Nonetheless, the findings highlight an important, basic memory phenomenon that may play out in the real world – it seems we probably are more likely to confuse our ideas with those of another person when we and they are more similar.Helpfully, there is also a real-world lesson here in the further finding that partner similarity made no difference to memory mistakes when participants were asked to explicitly recall both their own and partner's ideas at the same time.As the researchers explained: "When we attempt to reconstruct our memories of past conversations, or of conferences we have attended, the best way to avoid social influences on our source errors is to try to simultaneously recall the contributions from both partners, rather than trying to recall just one source. However, in so doing, we should be aware that we are likely to be attributing our ideas to them than claiming their ideas as our own. But then, as children we are taught that giving is better than receiving."_________________________________ Hollins, T., Lange, N., Dennis, I., & Longmore, C. (2016). Social influences on unconscious plagiarism and anti-plagiarism Memory, 24 (7), 884-902 DOI: 10.1080/09658211.2015.1059857 --further reading--By what age do children recognise that plagiarism is wrong?Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.Our free weekly email will keep you up-to-date with all the psychology research we digest: Sign up!
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