Mind & Brain, Neurology, Science

What happens to the brain after you mix pot and alcohol

Image: quickmeme.com

Both the effects of marijuana and alcohol have on the human brain have been widely studied, but the same thing can’t be said about the combination of the two, which is rather odd considering a lot of people enjoy a drink or two while packing a bowl. Scott Lukas, a professor at Harvard Medical School, investigated what happens in the brain while cross-faded in 2011 and came to some surprising conclusions. …

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…

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

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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)…

Biology, Genetics, News

Whole organ ‘grown’ in animals for the first time

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A whole functional organ has been successfully grown in animals for the first time; a group of Scottish researchers created a group of cells which, when transplanted into a mouse, developed into a fully functional thymus – a critical part of the immune system. The findings could lead to a revolution in organ transplant. The thymus is a specialized organ of the immune system. Within the thymus, T-cells mature. T cells are critical to the adaptive immune system, where they adapt specifically to foreign invaders. Each T cell attacks a specific foreign substance which it identifies with its receptor. Scientists at the Medical Research Council centre for regenerative medicine at the…

Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain, News

Breastfeeding improves mothers’ mental health

Image via ThinkProgress.

A new study of over 10,000 women has shown that women who breastfeed after giving birth have significantly lower chances of post-natal depression than their counterparts who didn’t. There are still many things we don’t yet understand about breastfeeding, as this study highlights – mothers who planned to breastfeed and were actually able to do it were around 50% less likely to become depressed than mothers who had not planned to and did not. The relationship between breastfeeding and post-natal depression was most pronounced when babies were 8 weeks old and started to lose its weight quickly after that. The research analyzed 13,998 births in the Bristol area in the early 1990s. Maternal…

Diseases, News

Drug saves monkeys from Marburg virus – a close relative of Ebola

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A medicine administered even up to 3 days after infection can save monkeys from the Marburg virus – an incredibly dangerous pathogen closely related to Ebola. “This clearly starts to move into the realm of being a therapy, rather than a post-exposure treatment,” says virologist Gene Olinger, principal science adviser for contract-research organization MRIGlobal in Kansas City, Missouri, who was not involved in the study. “It’s a tougher point to intervene, so it’s important that they’ve demonstrated this.” Marburg virs (MARV) is a hemorrhagic fever virus. It’s one of the most dangerous viruses on the face of the Earth, causing severe symptoms in a very short time in humans and nonhuman primates. The…

Animals, Genetics, News

Scientists find how lizards regenerate their tails

The green anole lizard (Anolis carolinensis) can lose and then regrow its tail, using cartilage and fat to replace the bone.

It’s one of the most remarkable adaptations in the animal world – growing a tail or a limb. Some lizards do it, salamanders do it, and by learning how they do it, we may soon be able to do it as well; with technology, that is. A team of researchers have discovered the genetic “recipe” for lizard tail regeneration which, at the very basic level, comes down to the right combination and quantity of genes. To make things even more interesting, we humans have the same genes used in tail regrowth, so the study has a lot of potential. “Lizards basically share the same toolbox of genes as humans,” said lead…

Health & Medicine, Technology

Chicago Twitter bot helps officials find dirty restaurants

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I just love it when technology can help solve social problems – especially in cases where you wouldn’t expect it to, like for example in Chicago, where a Twitter bot is helping authorities find dirty restaurants. If you’ve eaten out, and after that you feel a bit sick, like say you have an indigestion or a bad stomach – who are you gonna tell ? There are many city hotlines or authorities you can tell, but most people don’t use them. Most people just complain online, and what better place to complain than on Twitter? So, in a recent project, the city of Chicago sought food poisoning cases by setting…