Biosingularity

Archive for September 2011

Laughter is regularly promoted as a source of health and well being, but it has been hard to pin down exactly why laughing until it hurts feels so good.RSS Feed Get Science News From The New York Times »The answer, reports Robin Dunbar, an evolutionary psychologist at Oxford, is not the intellectual pleasure of cerebral humor, but the physical act of laughing. The simple muscular exertions involved in producing the familiar ha, ha, ha, he said, trigger an increase in endorphins, the brain chemicals known for their feel-good effect.

via Laughter Produces Endorphins, Study Finds – NYTimes.com.

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A gene responsible for chronic pain has been identified, with scientists saying this could lead to drugs for treating long-lasting back pain.Writing in the journal Science, University of Cambridge researchers removed the HCN2 gene from pain-sensitive nerves in mice.Deleting the gene stopped any chronic pain but did not affect acute pain.

via BBC News – Gene find could lead to drug for chronic back pain.

Each taste, from sweet to salty, is sensed by a unique set of neurons in the brains of mice, new research reveals. The findings demonstrate that neurons that respond to specific tastes are arranged discretely in what the scientists call a “gustotopic map.” This is the first map that shows how taste is represented in the mammalian brain.

There’s no mistaking the sweetness of a ripe peach for the saltiness of a potato chip – in part due to highly specialized, selectively-tuned cells in the tongue that detect each unique taste. Now, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and NIH scientists have added to our understanding of how we perceive taste, showing that four of our basic tastes—sweet, bitter, salty, and “umami,” or savory—are also processed by distinct areas of the brain. The researchers published their work in the September 2, 2011, issue of the journal Science.

via HHMI News: New Map Shows Where Tastes are Coded in the Brain: How Does the Brain Know What the Tongue Knows?.

Like explorers mapping a new planet, scientists probing the brain need every type of landmark they can get. Each mountain, river or forest helps scientists find their way through the intricacies of the human brain.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a new technique that provides rapid access to brain landmarks formerly only available at autopsy. Better brain maps will result, speeding efforts to understand how the healthy brain works and potentially aiding in future diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders, the researchers report in The Journal of Neuroscience Aug. 10

.Brain myelin maps

Scientists have found a way to use MRI scanning data to map myelin, a white sheath that covers some brain cell branches. Such maps, previously only available via dissection, help scientists detemine precisely where they are at in the brain. Red and yellow indicate regions with high myelin levels; blue, purple and black areas have low myelin levels.  

via Scientists have new help finding brain’s nooks and crannies | Newsroom | Washington University in St. Louis.

Engineers from the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois recently reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences using small changes in the optical properties of  single living cells to measure their growth.

“Determining the growth patterns of single cells,” the researchers write, “offers answers to some of the most elusive questions in contemporary cell biology: how cell growth is regulated and how cell size distributions are maintained.”

via Futurity.org – Optics used to track single cell’s growth.

Multiple lifestyle factors such as obesity and alcohol consumption increase a person’s risk of diabetes. But new research suggests that a person’s odds of developing the disease may decrease for each positive lifestyle change they make. Prevent the struggles of alcohol abuse and seek the guidance of alcohol rehab if necessary.

Lifestyle factors that can influence the risk of developing type 2 diabetes include diet, weight, physical activity, smoking, and alcohol use.

Researchers, who surveyed about 200,000 people, say diabetes risk can be reduced by 31% for men and 39% for women for each positive lifestyle change, such as quitting smoking or regularly exercising. Also, alcohol use should not exceed one drink daily for women and two drinks daily for men.

via Improving Lifestyle Reduces Diabetes Risk.

Researchers at the University of Leeds have discovered a pain-free way of tackling dental decay that reverses the damage of acid attack and re-builds teeth as new.

The pioneering treatment promises to transform the approach to filling teeth forever.

Tooth decay begins when acid produced by bacteria in plaque dissolves the mineral in the teeth, causing microscopic holes or ‘pores’ to form. As the decay process progresses these micro-pores increase in size and number. Eventually the damaged tooth may have to be drilled and filled to prevent toothache, or even removed.
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We make decisions all our lives—so you’d think we’d get better and better at it. Yet research has shown that younger adults are better decision makers than older ones. Some Texas psychologists, puzzled by these findings, suspected the experiments were biased toward younger brains.

So, rather than testing the ability to make decisions one at a time without regard to past or future, as earlier research did, these psychologists designed a model requiring participants to evaluate each result in order to strategize the next choice, more like decision making in the real world.

The results: The older decision makers trounced their juniors. The findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Read the rest of this entry »

A team of scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have successfully reengineered an important antibiotic to kill the deadliest antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The compound could one day be used clinically to treat patients with life-threatening and highly resistant bacterial infections.

The results were published in an advanced online issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
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