Mind & Brain, News

Researchers changing the emotional association of memories

The image portrays he injection sites and the expression of the viral constructs in the amygdala and hippocampus; Photo Credits: Redondo et al

A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been working on a research consisting of the manipulation of neural circuits in the brain of mice in order to alter their emotional associations with specific memories. The research, published in the journal Nature on August 28th, was led by Howard Hughes and Sumusu Tonegawa and it revealed that the connections between the sides of the brain that are responsible of storing contextual information about a specific experience and the of the emotional memory of the experience are malleable. By altering the said connections, a negative memory can be transformed into a positive one, as the report in…

Diseases, Health & Medicine, News

Scientists stumble upon a vaccine which blocks HIV in monkeys – human trials planned

T-lymphocyte. Image via David Darling.

Scientists were surprised when they unexpectedly stumbled upon a relatively simple vaccine which blocks infection with SIV – the monkey equivalent of HIV – and stops the spread of the virus in already infected monkeys. How it works All efficient vaccines against a viral infection elicit virus-specific neutralizing antibodies and sometimes also cytotoxic T-lymphocytes (CTL) that prevent virus infection or eradicate the virus rapidly after it enters the body. So far, this has proven impossible in the case of HIV, despite huge advancements in the last couple of decades. So far, only one trial out of more than a hundred proved limited efficiency, with modest and short lasting protection. This…

Environment, Environmental Issues, News, Pollution

Ozone-depleting chemicals still spewed in atmosphere despite international ban

The ozone hole (purple and blue) covered much of Antarctica in 2006. Image: CAROLYN GRAMLING

NASA reports significant quantities of ozone-depleting chemicals are still leaching into the atmosphere despite an international ban signed by all the world’s governments thirty years ago. …

Mathematics, News

How one single sheepdog herds a flock of one hundred – mystery solved

sheepdog

Researchers at Swansea University, UK and Uppsala University in Sweden built a mathematical model that explains how one single sheepdog can round up herds made of up to 100 sheep. Their conclusion suggests that the dog needs only to follow two simple mathematical rules. …

Biology, Mind & Brain, Neurology, News

The key to patience lies within serotonin

(A) The picture on the left shows serotonin neurons in red. The middle picture shows neurons expressing light sensitive proteins in green. The picture on the right is an overlay of the previous two pictures, showing in orange light sensitive proteins selectively expressed in serotonin neurons. (B) Blue light illumination, 500 microsecond pulse, shown in blue line, induced spontaneous action potentials in the serotonin neuron for approximately 10 seconds. The yellow light illumination, 500 microsecond pulse, shown in yellow line, stopped spontaneous action potentials.

Either when someone’s late for a date or you need to queue in line, our patience becomes tested. Some people handle the waiting better than others, leading us to the idea that patience is a virtue that differs from person to person. But what is it exactly that helps us remain patient, and why do some people remain unfazed even when faced with hours, days even of waiting? The answer might lie in serotonin - one of the most widespread neutransmitter believed to influence a variety of psychological and other body functions. An imbalance in serotonin levels, for instance, has been linked with depression. The finding came after Japanese researchers at the …

Anatomy, Did you know?, Health & Medicine

These rocks in your head keep you balanced

calcium_carbonate_ear

The beautiful colored image above might look like beach pebbles, yet in reality it shows a glimpse from an even tinnier world – it’s a colored scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of calcium carbonate deposited on the surface of an otolith, found in the Acoustic Macula. These tiny debris also fit a purpose, helping the body stay in equilibrium, whether in static (position of the head) or dynamic equilibrium (relative position function of linear acceleration)…

Animals, News, World Problems

One in eight birds threatened by biochemicals and climate change

Atlantic puffins live in cliffs along the Atlantic during summer time. Their colonies have been steadily vanishing. Photo: CYRIL RUOSO, MINDEN PICTURES/CORBIS

From the tropics to the poles, bird populations all over the world are facing a sharp decline, cornered by climate change and exposure to man-made biochemicals, namely pesticides. According to to BirdLife International, one in eight species (more than 1,300 species) of birds are under serious threat of becoming extinct. The list includes iconic birds of pray and song like eagles, vultures, swifts or swallows, but also seabirds like sandpipers, pelicans or storks. …

News, Renewable Energy, Technology

Stanford scientists split water with device that runs on an ordinary AAA battery

14193-splitter_device

Researchers from Stanford have found a way to split water into oxygen and hydrogen using very little energy; the hydrogen they obtain could be used to power fuel cells in zero-emissions vehicles. I’m quite excited for cars that run on hydrogen, which are set to hit the market in 2015; but while they are always presented as “zero emission cars”, many of the hydrogen cars will actually use hydrogen obtained with natural gas – which is still a fossil fuel and still has considerable emissions. Hopefully, that will only be a temporary stage, and pretty soon, manufacturers will move on to greener, more sustainable solutions – like this project from Stanford University….

Biology, News

Fungus lethal for AIDS patients found growing on trees by 13 year old

Cgattii-pseudocolored-SEM1

Researchers have pinpointed the source of a huge environmental threat for AIDS patients – the source of a fungal infection which has been plaguing Southern California for years; it literally grows on trees. The finding was based on the research project of a 13 year old. Cryptococcus gattii, formerly known as Cryptococcus neoformans var gattii, is an encapsulated yeast found primarily in tropical and subtropical climates. It is the cause of many pulmonary infections in humans, especially in those with compromised immune systems, like AIDS patients. Recent times have witnessed a surge of infection occurrences, arguably due to global warming.  From 1999 through to early 2008, two hundred and sixteen…

Biology, News

Zombie ant fungi ‘know’ brains of their hosts

Zombified ant - image via Wired.

A while ago, we were telling you about the infamous “zombie ant fungus” – a parasitic fungus that reproduces by manipulating the behavior of ants. It’s one of the most gruesome acts in nature – the parasite fungi infect tropical ants, literally taking control of their actions, ultimately leading the infected ant to march to its death at a mass grave near the ant colony, where the fungus spores erupt out of the ant’s head so it can spread even further, infecting more ants. Now, a new study has shown that the fungus knows how to differentiate between ant species, emitting mind controlling chemicals only when it infects its natural target host. The…