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Showing posts from May, 2015

BABIES CAN THINK BEFORE THEY CAN SPEAK

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Two pennies can be considered the same -- both are pennies, just as two elephants can be considered the same, as both are elephants. Despite the vast difference between pennies and elephants, we easily notice the common relation of sameness that holds for both pairs. Analogical ability -- the ability to see common relations between objects, events or ideas -- is a key skill that underlies human intelligence and differentiates humans from other apes. While there is considerable evidence that preschoolers can learn abstract relations, it remains an open question whether infants can as well. In a new Northwestern University study, researchers found that infants are capable of learning the abstract relations of same and different after only a few examples. "This suggests that a skill key to human intelligence is present very early in human development, and that language skills are not necessary for learning abstract relations," said lead author Alissa Ferry, who conducted the resea…

EARTHQUAKES PROVE TO BE AN UNEXPECTED HELP IN INTERPRETING BRAIN ACTIVITY OF VERY PREMATURE BABIES

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University of Helsinki researchers have partnered with Swedish and Australian researchers to create a "brainstorm barometer," which allows computers to calculate the brain functions of very premature babies during their first hours of life. The new research method is based on the hypothesis that the brainstorms generated by the billions of neurons inside a baby's head are governed by the same rules as other massive natural phenomena, such as earthquakes, forest fires or snow avalanches. Giant strides have been taken in the early care of very premature infants in postnatal intensive care units during the past two decades. Doctors can now support the function of especially the lungs, heart and the circulatory system so as to guarantee the survival of most of even extremely premature infants. Despite a good start, many of these may still have lifelong problems with brain function, such as attention deficit disorders or difficulty with visual function. For this reason, the pr…

GOOD SKIN CONTAINS MANY CANCER LINKED MUTATIONS

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Normal skin contains an unexpectedly high number of cancer-associated mutations, according to a study published inScience.The findings illuminate the first steps cells take towards becoming a cancer and demonstrate the value of analyzing normal tissue to learn more about the origins of the disease
The study revealed that each cell in normal facial skin carries many thousands of mutations, mainly caused by exposure to sunlight. In fact, around 25 per cent of skin cells in samples from people without cancer were found to carry at least one cancer-associated mutation. Ultra-deep genetic sequencing was performed on 234 biopsies taken from four patients revealing 3,760 mutations, with more than 100 cancer-associated mutations per square centimetre of skin. Cells with these mutations formed clusters of cells, known as clones, that had grown to be around twice the size of normal clones, but none of them had become cancerous. "With this technology, we can now peer into the first steps a ce…

COLD WEATHER KILLS MANY MORE THAN HOT WEATHER

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Cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather, according to an international study analyzing over 74 million deaths in 384 locations across 13 countries. The findings, published inThe Lancet, also reveal that deaths due to moderately hot or cold weather substantially exceed those resulting from extreme heat waves or cold spells. "It's often assumed that extreme weather causes the majority of deaths, with most previous research focusing on the effects of extreme heat waves," says lead author Dr Antonio Gasparrini from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in the UK. "Our findings, from an analysis of the largest dataset of temperature-related deaths ever collected, show that the majority of these deaths actually happen on moderately hot and cold days, with most deaths caused by moderately cold temperatures." The study analysed over 74 million (74,225,200) deaths between 1985 and 2012 in 13 countries with a wide range of climates, from co…

NEW TEST DETECTS DRUG USE FROM A SINGLE FINGERPRINT

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Research published in the journalAnalysthas demonstrated a new, non-invasive test that can detect cocaine use through a simple fingerprint. For the first time, this new fingerprint method can determine whether cocaine has been ingested, rather than just touched. Led by the University of Surrey, a team of researchers from the Netherlands Forensic Institute (NL), the National Physical Laboratory (UK), King's College London (UK) and Sheffield Hallam University (UK), used different types of an analytical chemistry technique known as mass spectrometry to analyse the fingerprints of patients attending drug treatment services. They tested these prints against more commonly used saliva samples to determine whether the two tests correlated. While previous fingerprint tests have employed similar methods, they have only been able to show whether a person had touched cocaine, and not whether they have actually taken the drug. "When someone has taken cocaine, they excrete traces of benzoyle…

EASY EXERCISE TO HELP TO CONTROL SNORING

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If snoring is hampering your partner’s sound sleep, simple mouth and tongue exercises can do wonders. Researchers have found that these exercises can reduce frequency of snoring by 36 percent and total power of snoring by 59 percent. “This study demonstrates a promising, non-invasive treatment for large populations suffering from snoring, the snorers and their bed partners, that are largely omitted from research and treatment,” said Barbara Phillips, medical director, sleep laboratory at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in the US. Snorers can try pushing the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and sliding the tongue backward. Sucking the tongue upward against the roof of the mouth, and pressing the entire tongue against the roof of the mouth can also help. Forcing the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the bottom, front teeth and elevating the back of the roof of the mouth and uvula while saying th…

SAVORY FOODS TASTE BETTER WHEN FLYING

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If you're planning to fly over the holiday, plan to drink some tomato juice. While examining how airplane noise affects the palate, Cornell University food scientists found sweetness suppressed and a tasty, tender tomato surprise: umami. A Japanese scientific term, umami describes the sweet, savory taste of amino acids such as glutamate in foods like tomato juice, and according to the new study, in noisy situations -- like the 85 decibels aboard a jetliner -- umami-rich foods become your taste bud's best buds. "Our study confirmed that in an environment of loud noise, our sense of taste is compromised. Interestingly, this was specific to sweet and umami tastes, with sweet taste inhibited and umami taste significantly enhanced," said Robin Dando, assistant professor of food science. "The multisensory properties of the environment where we consume our food can alter our perception of the foods we eat." With Dando, Kimberly Yan, co-authored the study, "A Cro…

MAMMARY GLAND REMEMBER'S PRIOR PREGNANCY , SPURRING MILK PRODUCTION

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Anecdotal reports of nursing mothers have long suggested that giving milk is a lot easier in second and subsequent pregnancies, compared with a first pregnancy. Now, researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) are able to explain why
Their work shows the mammary gland forms a long-term memory of pregnancy that primes it to respond to the hormonal changes that announce succeeding pregnancies. The memory lasts throughout an individual's reproductive years. The results appear online in Cell Reports. Secretion of the hormones estrogen and progesterone set the stage for dramatic changes that take place in the breast during pregnancy: a massive proliferation of mammary epithelial cells, and the formation of thousands of ductal structures, which support milk production and transport during lactation. A team led by HHMI Investigator Greg Hannon, a CSHL Professor and also a Professor and Senior Group Leader at the CRUK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge, hypothesized t…

MOBILE PHONE VIDEO MICROSCOPE AUTOMATES DETECTION OF PARASITES IN BLOOD

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A research team led by engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, has developed a new mobile phone microscope that uses video to automatically detect and quantify infection by parasitic worms in a drop of blood. This next generation of UC Berkeley's CellScope technology could help revive efforts to eradicate debilitating diseases in Africa by providing critical information for health providers in the field.
"We previously showed that mobile phones can be used for microscopy, but this is the first device that combines the imaging technology with hardware and software automation to create a complete diagnostic solution," said Daniel Fletcher, associate chair and professor of bioengineering, whose UC Berkeley lab pioneered the CellScope. "The video CellScope provides accurate, fast results that enable health workers to make potentially life-saving treatment decisions in the field." The UC Berkeley engineers teamed up with Dr. Thomas Nutman from the Nationa…