Mind & Brain, News, Nutrition

Obese teens are much more susceptible to junk food commercials, brain scans reveal

About a quarter of commercial television advertisements are for food.

It’s no secret that TV food commercials stimulate pleasure and reward centers in the brain, after all advertisers wouldn’t pay big money for them to air if they didn’t entice people to order more. In fact, food advertising has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. Teenagers are exposed on average to 13 food commercials on any given day. At the same time, childhood and adolescent obesity in the US has been on the rise fast and worrisome, so we can’t help but notice the connection. Now, researchers at Dartmouth found overweight teens are disproportionately affected by TV food commercials, as key brain regions that control pleasure, taste and – most surprisingly – the mouth are all much more stimulated than those teens with less body fat. The findings are important since they suggest overweight teens exposed to this kind of environment will experience further difficulties when they try to lose weight. A further insight is that dietary plans should also target subsequent thinking concerning eating food, not just the temptation.

Health & Medicine, News

You can’t get lower than this: four charities scammed $187m in donations meant for children with cancer

Leaders of the scam charities. Image: YouTube

Four cancer charities operated by the same family under a scamming scheme were sued by the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The group allegedly scammed consumers out of more than $187 million, who in good faith wanted to contribute to a good cause. In some cases, the charities asked people for money that would eventually help children with cancer, one the most vulnerable groups. Instead, only 3% of the money the group raised actually went to charitable causes. The rest was pocketed.

Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain, News

Some foods taste better (or less atrocious) while flying


The loud noise that usually airline passengers have to deal with in mid-flight can significantly alter how food tastes. According to researchers at Cornell University sweet flavors are inhibited, while savory flavors are enhanced. This might serve to explain why, for instance, tomato juice is such a popular beverage served on flights. German airline, Lufthansa, reports its passengers consumed 1.8 million liters of tomato juice in a single year or just as much as beer. Quite a lot, considering few people actually buy tomato juice back on land.

Health & Medicine, Technology

Watch this robotic surgical system stitch a grape

da vinci surgery

With grace and steady robotic clippers, this high-end remote controlled surgical system was used to stitch a piece of skin back over the exposed flesh of a grape. Like a pro, the Da Vinci Surgical System – named after the famous renaissance genius who first inspired working robots – can be seen in this amazing video putting the final touch, tying a knot, then using its scissor-hand to cut the loose thread. Job done!

Chemistry, Health & Medicine, News

Scientists describe method to create morphine at home

"I'll have a morphine ale, please". Image via Serious Eats.

Scientists have managed how to create morphine using a kit like the ones used to make beer at home. They used genetically modified yeast to perform the complicated process of turning sugar into morphine, and while they believe this can have huge medical significance, they also express concerns about “homebrewed” drugs.

Mind & Brain, News

Researchers home in on speech center in the brain

brain and speech center

Researchers have long theorized that the superior temporal sulcus (STS) is involved in processing speech rhythms, but it’s only recently that this has been confirmed by a team at Duke University. Their findings show that the STS is sensitive to the timing of speech, a crucial element of spoken language. This could help further our understanding of how some speech-impairing conditions arise in the brain, or aid tutors design next-generation, computer assisted foreign language courses.

Animals, Health & Medicine, News

Sea Turtle gets a new 3D-printed titanium jaw after being hit by a boat’s propeller

turtle titanium 3d printed jaw

A turtle named Akut-3 was fitted with a new, custom made 3-D printed jaw by doctors at the Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation centre at Pamukkale University in Denizli, Turkey. The reptile was found badly injured at sea and brought to the center for rehabilitation. At first, the doctors healed the turtle’s wounds and hand fed her, but they knew they had to turn to something more drastic if the animal was to ever fend for herself in the wild again. They turned to a company in Turkey known for custom made prostheses, gave them a detailed CT scan of the turtle’s skull, then received a new beak made out of medical-grade titanium. The prosthesis perfectly fit Akut-3, who is aptly named like a cyborg.

Alternative Medicine, Health & Medicine

Your hand shake is an indicator of your heart’s health


You can find out a lot about a man by his handshake – about his personality, his feelings towards you, or… his heart health. According to a new Canadian study, a firm handshake is a reliable indicator of good health; they actually want to use handshake tests as initial ways to gauge the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Mind & Brain, News, Technology

Making computers ‘tick’ like the human brain: a breakthrough moment

An artificial synaptic circuit. Image: Sonia Fernandez

Researchers at UC Santa Barbara made a simple neural circuit comprised of 100 artificial synapses, which they used to classify three letters by their images, despite font changes and noise introduced into the image. The researchers claim the rudimentary, yet effective circuit processes the text much in the same way as the human brain does. In other words, like you’re currently interpreting the text in this article. Even if you change the font, printscreen this article and splash it with an airbrush in MS Paint, you’ll still be able to read at least portions of it, because the human brain is so great at scaling patterns and abstracting symbols. This kind of research will hopefully usher in a new age of more refined, energy efficient computing.

Biology, Health & Medicine, News

A lung cancer vaccine made in Cuba will begin clinical trials in the US

cuban cigar

Cuba, famous for its rum and cigars, might be one of the unlikeliest places people think of when cutting-edge biotech research is concerned. Despite economic sanctions and embargoes set forth by the US and partners, the country’s medical research institutes boasts some impressive results, particularly in immunization. One prime example is a lung cancer vaccine developed at Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology which increases life expectancy by up to six months. Now, the Roswell Park Cancer has signed an agreement with the Cuban medical center to finally bring the vaccine to the US for clinical trials.