Rejection is Physical Pain

April 24th, 2011

Randolph E. Schmid: The pain of rejection is more than just a figure of speech. The regions of the brain that respond to physical pain overlap those that react to social rejection, according to a new study that used brain imaging on people involved in romantic breakups.

“These results give new meaning to the idea that rejection `hurts,'” wrote psychology professor Ethan Kross of the University of Michigan and his colleagues. Their findings are reported in Tuesday’s edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Edward Smith of Columbia University explained that the research shows that psychological or social events can affect regions of the brain that scientists thought were dedicated to physical pain. In a way, we’re saying “it’s not a metaphor,” Smith said in a telephone interview.


Gut Bacteria: the New Blood Type

April 21st, 2011

By Carl Zimmer, New York Times: In the early 1900s, scientists discovered that each person belonged to one of four blood types. Now they have discovered a new way to classify humanity: by bacteria.

Each human being is host to thousands of different species of microbes. Yet a group of scientists now report just three distinct ecosystems in the guts of people they have studied….The microbes alter the gut so that only certain species can follow them.

Whatever the cause of the different enterotypes, they may end up having discrete effects on people’s health. Gut microbes aid in food digestion and synthesize vitamins, using enzymes our own cells cannot make.

Dr. Bork and his colleagues have found that each of the types makes a unique balance of these enzymes. Enterotype 1 produces more enzymes for making vitamin B7 (also known as biotin), for example, and Enterotype 2 more enzymes for vitamin B1 (thiamine).

The discovery of the blood types A, B, AB and O had a major effect on how doctors practice medicine. They could limit the chances that a patient’s body would reject a blood transfusion by making sure the donated blood was of a matching type. The discovery of enterotypes could someday lead to medical applications of its own, but they would be far down the road.

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A Monkey Can Do That?

February 22nd, 2011

By Joanna Zelman: Professor John David Smith and Michael Beran trained macaques, which are of the Old World group (native to Africa, Asia, and Europe), to play a computer game where if they got an answer right, they received a treat. A wrong answer meant no treat, but a brief pause before the next question. But there was a third option — the question mark. By selecting the question mark, the screen skipped the present question, considered too hard, and moved on to the next.

The macaques responded in the exact same way as humans — the monkeys chose to skip the tricky questions. Meanwhile, Dr. Smith told the BBC, “Monkeys apparently appreciate when they are likely to make an error… They seem to know when they don’t know.”


Gone Today, Hair Tomorrow?

February 18th, 2011
bald mice A new study surprised researchers by showing a link between hair loss, stress, and the digestive system.  This will certainly trigger more research and novel treatments in the future. For now, decrease your stress to protect your hair! — Cathie

Photo: The bald mice in row C are the same mice shown in group B, after treatment with a hair-growth compound. The mice in row A were given a placebo.

From The New York Times: Mouse researchers conducting stress hormone experiments have stumbled onto a surprising new discovery — a potential treatment for hair loss—while  working with genetically altered mice that typically develop head-to-tail baldness as a result of overproducing a stress hormone.

The experiment wasn’t focused on hair loss. Instead, it was designed to study a chemical compound that blocks the effects of stress on the gut. The researchers treated the bald mice for five days with the compound and then returned them to the cages, where they scampered about with several furry mice from a control group.

Three months later, the scientists went back to the cage to conduct additional experiments. They were surprised by what they saw inside — all of the mice had full heads and backs of hair. The once-bald mice, eventually identified through ear tags, were indistinguishable from their normal, furry cage mates.

Dr. Million Mulugeta of the preclinical stress biology program at U.C.L.A., said he looked inside the cage and at first wondered why the bald mice weren’t there. “I asked my colleague, ‘How come these mice aren’t distinguishable from the others?’ ” he said. “We went back to our data log, and we realized all the mice had grown hair. It was a totally unexpected finding.” Continue reading »

Pre-Reversing Alzheimer’s

August 26th, 2010

By Jean Carper, Author: ‘100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Age-Related Memory Loss

“I have discovered a large contingent of Alzheimer’s researchers who are extremely positive about prevention and not counting on an elusive drug to stymie the growing Alzheimer’s epidemic of aging baby boomers.(…) There is a plethora of upbeat dialogue in the scientific community that does not grab headlines because it’s not about big money and a magic cure. It’s primarily about what people can do to change their own trajectory toward Alzheimer’s.

Contrast the recent disturbing headlines in the New York Times about Alzheimer’s drugs and diagnosis with the June, 2010 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is a special issue devoted to finding ways to prevent Alzheimer’s. [In it[ Dr. Jack de la Torre boldly asserts that (…) “Alzheimer’s is incurable, but it is preventable,” he says. “We need to identify and lower Alzheimer’s risk factors in people when they are still cognitively normal and long before irreversible symptoms appear.”

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