Using ultrasound to operate on the brain

A preliminary study from Switzerland, published this month in the Annals of Neurology, proved the effectiveness of a new method of non-invasive brain surgery: using a newly-developed operating device that relies on ultrasound, in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), allowed neurosurgeons to precisely remove small pieces of brain tissue in nine patients suffering from chronic pain without removing skin or skull bone. Researchers now plan to test it on patients with other disorders, such as Parkinson’s. Neal Kassell, neurosurgeon at the University of Virginia, not directly involved in the study.

Agricultural behaviors recorded in bees for the first time

Cristiano Menezes of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation has discovered farming behaviors in bees, adding them to the list of social insects that practice agriculture.

Study finds global effect of temperature on productivity

A recent study published Wednesday in the journal Nature shows that there is a strong functional relationship between a region’s average recorded temperature and economic productivity — further warning of the damage climate warming would inflict on our economy.

U.S. economic losses from hurricanes fueled by climate change

A recent U.S. study shows how the upward trend in economic damage from hurricanes correlates very closely to the influence global warming has on the number and intensity of hurricanes. Published in Nature Geoscience, it concludes that the commonly cited reasons for growing hurricane damage — increases in vulnerability, value, and exposure of property — don’t stand up very well to scrutiny.

How the brain keeps your heat and water balance

What exactly makes you thirsty? Dehydration, obviously, but how does your brain know that your body needs water? And how does that grey, squishy lump resting in your cool and comfortable cranium, know when your body needs to heat up or cool off? Scientists at the McGill University Health Centre Research Institute (RI-MUHC) and Duke University have asked themselves just that, and being scientists, went ahead to find out.

Delivering orange-coloured death to cancer cells

A research effort at Winship Cancer Institute recently identified a substance in orange lichen and rhubarb that has the potential to be used as a new anti-cancer drug. The substance, an orange pigment known as parietin or physcion, slows the growth and can even kill leukemia cells harvested from patients, without obvious toxic effects on human cells, the study authors report.

CERN experiment to test if we can connect to another dimension

In an experiment proposal that sounds more like an evil genius’ plan than a reputable science endeavour, CERN’s LHC atom smasher in Geneva, Switzerland will be cranked up to the highest energy levels ever, as scientists hope to detect or create miniature black holes. If successful, scientists hope that the experiment will uncover extra dimensions hidden in our universe.

New species of wild banana discovered in Thailand

Researchers have discovered a new species of banana christened “nanensis”, belonging to the Musa genus, sharing a place in the family Musaceae with more than 70 other species of bananas and plantains. It’s scientific name honors the province of Nan where the type specimens were collected.

Artificial skin can feel pressure, then tell your brain about it

Prosthetics has come a long way from its humble beginnings – the crude wooden legs of yore are a far cry from the technological marvels we can create to replace our limbs today. However, there is one thing that, with all our know-how, we haven’t yet been able to incorporate in them: a sense of touch. A research team from Stanford University aims to fix this shortcoming, and has developed technology that can “feel” when force is exerted upon it, then transmit the sensory data to brain cells – in essence, they’ve created an artificial skin.

Challenging the “Out of Africa” theory, one tooth at a time

Recent fossils unearthed in the Chinese province of Daoxian come to unravel the story of humanity’s spread as we know it today. The find consists of 47 teeth, belonging to modern humans, but what’s really important is their age – they have been dated to 80,000 years ago. This number doesn’t fit with the “Out of Africa” migration theory, holding that humans originate and have spread from the horn of the continent all around the world. The theory as we know it can’t explain human presence in the area for another 20,000 years.

Rich but not happier — why economic growth doesn’t always translate to happiness

It’s easy to assume that with economic gain comes happiness — we live in capitalism, after all. But science comes to prove us all wrong yet again, and shows that the link between economics and happiness is much more complicated that we thought. Money can’t buy happiness, it seems.

Centipede venom could hold the secret of the perfect painkiller

Chinese researchers discovered a chemical compound that works just as well as morphine — without any of the negative side effects. The substance is derived from the venom of a centipede native to China. The discovery has huge medical applications, and could potentially reduce the country’s military reliance on morphine for battlefield use.

CO2 in the atmosphere heralds imminent food chain collapse — and it’s gonna start in the oceans

The first global analysis of how marine environments react to the ever-increasing levels of CO2 that humanity is pumping into the atmosphere does not bode well at all for tomorrow’s would-be fishers. Published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the work of the University of Adelaide’s marine ecologists states that the warming and expected ocean acidification is likely to produce a reduction in diversity and numbers of various key species that underpin marine ecosystems around the world.

Malaria proteins kill 9 out of 10 cancer cells in mice trials

Researchers stumbled upon a new tool to fight cancer in a rather unexpected place; while searching for a vaccine against malaria in pregnant women, a team of Danish scientists found that, simply put, armed malaria proteins are remarkably good at killing cancer cells. They hope to have a working prototype ready for human trials within four years’ time. Their discovery has been published in the scientific journal Cancer Cell.

New passage of the Epic of Gilgamesh had us waiting even more than G R R Martin does between books

The Sulaymaniyah Museum in Iraq uncovered 20 new lines of the Epic of Gilgamesh, the nearly 3000 years old Mesopotamian poem, considered to be one of the world’s first great works of literature. They belong to a passage in which Gilgamesh enters a cedar forest and slays a demigod named Humbaba, with the setting and the demigod himself described differently and in more detail, writes Ted Mills for Open Culture.

Action games give your brain the best work-out

With the variety of games available today varying from those designed to enhance mental fitness, solve real world problems all the way to ones meant for pure entertainment, they have diverse and profound effects on our brains. A new article published in the October 1st issue of Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences argues that the specific content, dynamics, and mechanics of individual games determine their effects on the brain and that the long-criticized action video games might have particularly positive benefits.

Genetically-altered pigs to become humanity’s source for “spare” organs

Among all the species with which we share the animal kingdom, pigs are the ones whose organs are best suited for transplant in human bodies — they are approximately the same size as our organs and have similar structures, making reconnecting blood vessels much easier. Pigs tend to have large litters and reproduce quickly, making them a very large, very accessible source of “spare parts.”

Feeding the world through global warming: Altering one plant gene makes for climate-resilient crops

It’s estimated that humanity will have to produce around 50% more food than we currently do to keep up with growing global demand….by 2050. It’s an enormous challenge, especially as more and more countries face the effects of climate change, such as drought or toxic salinity levels. One of our best hopes is to rely more on crops that can flourish despite the vicissitudes of the environment, and plant cell biologists at the University of Oxford hope that their new breakthrough in climate-resilient agriculture will allow us to do just that.

Many parts, but the same mold – how the brain forms new thoughts

The brain forms new thoughts using two adjacent brain regions that are the cornerstone of the process.

Life without music – study looks at brain with amusia

For most people listening to music or playing an instrument is a great way to relax, unwind, have fun, and express themselves. But not everybody is able to perceive, appreciate or memorize music, to sing or to dance. Monica is one such person, and to her, any kind of music is just a bunch of noise that makes her head ache and feel stressed.