Although flightless in air, penguins have a number of adaptations which allow them glide effortlessly through the water. And some of these adaptations are in an unlikely part of their anatomy -- their brains. Recent finds of fossil penguins from 35-million-year-old sediments in Antarctica have begun to shed light on the changes in penguin brains that accompanied their transition to water.
Psychologists have presented a new theory for why neurotic unhappiness and creativity go hand-in-hand. The authors argue that the part of the brain responsible for self-generated thought is highly active in neuroticism, which yields both of the trait's positives (e.g., creativity) and negatives (e.g., misery).
Aging cripples the production of new immune cells, decreasing the immune system’s response to vaccines and putting the elderly at risk of infection, but antioxidants in the diet may slow this damaging process.
That’s a new finding by scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), published in an open-access paper in the journal Cell Reports. The problem is focused on an organ called the thymus, which produces T lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) — critical immune cells that must be continuously replenished so they can respond to new infections. “The thymus begins to atrophy rapidly in very early adulthood, simultaneously losing its function,” said TSRI Professor Howard Petrie. “This new study shows for the first time a mechanism for the long-suspected connection between normal immune function and antioxidants.”
Scientists have been hampered in their efforts to develop specific immune therapies for the elderly by a lack of knowledge of the underlying mechanisms of this process. To explore these mechanisms, Petrie and his team developed a computational approach for analyzing the activity of genes in two major cell types in the thymus — stromal cells and lymphoid cells — in mouse tissues, which are similar to human tissues in terms of function and age-related atrophy. The team found that stromal cells were specifically deficient in an antioxidant enzyme called catalase. That resulted in elevated levels of the reactive oxygen byproducts of metabolism, which cause accelerated metabolic damage.*
Taken together, the findings provide support for the “free-radical theory” of aging, which proposes that reactive oxygen species (such as hydrogen peroxide), produced during normal metabolism (and from other sources) cause cellular damage that contributes to aging and age-related diseases. Free radicals are especially reactive atoms or groups of atoms that have one or more unpaired electrons. Besides those produced in the body as a by-product of normal metabolism, they can also be introduced from an outside source, such as tobacco smoke or other toxins.
Other studies have suggested that sex hormones, particularly androgens such as testosterone, play a major role in the aging process. But according to the researchers, those studies have failed to answer the key question: why does the thymus atrophy so much more rapidly than other body tissues?
“There’s no question that the thymus is remarkably responsive to androgens,” Petrie noted, “but our study shows that the fundamental mechanism of aging in the thymus, namely accumulated metabolic damage, is the same as in other body tissues. However, the process is accelerated in the thymus by a deficiency in the essential protective effects of catalase, which is found at higher levels in almost all other body tissues.”
Across all 50 states and the District of Columbia, homicides of police officers are linked to the statewide level of gun ownership, according to a new study. The study found that police officers serving in states with high private gun ownership are more than three times more likely to be killed on the job than those on the job in states with the lowest gun ownership.
The scientific explanation behind the saying "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" has been uncovered by a groundbreaking new study. The work has found, for the first time, that emotions are not only the product of the processing of information by the brain, but that they also directly influence processes of learning and memory in the brain.
Scientists have discovered that HIV does not cause AIDS by the virus's direct effect on the host's immune cells, but rather through the cells' lethal influence on one another. In a new study, the researchers revealed that the HIV 'death pathway' -- how 95 percent of cells die from the virus -- is only initiated if the virus is passed from cell-to-cell, not if cells are infected by free-floating viral particles.
Playing Tetris on a smarthphone for as little as three minutes can weaken cravings for drugs, food and activities by as much as one-fifth, new research shows. In the first test of its kind to study people in natural settings outside of a laboratory, participants were monitored for levels of craving and prompted to play the block-shifting puzzle game at random intervals during the day.
Patients suffering from bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), which is a mental condition, causing instant mood, activity and energy changes, making the afflicted persons daily tasks much harder to do could soon be more accurately diagnosed. The ones having bipolar disorder are often misdiagnosed with another serious mental condition MDD (Major Depressive Disorder) and for a good reason as the condition first becomes more noticeable when the person is in a depressive state which is one of the major symptoms of the MDD.
Around 2.6%of the US population is suffering from bipolar disorder as opposed to almost 7%of the adult population with MDD in the US so making an accurate diagnosis is much more crucial to quickly get the patients the correct treatment.
Current diagnostics relies on interviewing patients and the final diagnosis is determined on these observations, which isn’t the best way as this tests are of subjective nature and can be misleading. The new method developed by the Peng Xie and his team from Chongqing Medical University relies on objective testing to differentiate between the two.
The new method is a combination of nuclear magnetic resonance and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and with this novelty method the team analysed urine metabolites in samples from patients who either had bipolar disorder or MDD and the end results identified a panel of 6 biomarkers with an 89 to 91 percent chance of predicting each disorder.
A little known sexually transmitted infection can boost the survival of patients infected with HIV—a more dangerous virus, researchers say. GB virus C (GBV-C) is the only known case of a potentially beneficial STI in humans. But it’s an example of a phenomenon that scientists are beginning to see elsewhere: STIs that are good for your health. What’s more, the health benefits of these helpful STIs could have given a boost to the evolution of promiscuity, scientists say. “There is a common perception that STIs are harmful,” says Chad Smith, an evolutionary ecologist at The University of Texas at Austin. But in a survey of the scientific literature, Smith and his colleague Ulrich Mueller found four documented cases of beneficial STIs in humans, aphids, mosquitoes and fungi.
Understanding how and why we evolved such large brains is one of the most puzzling issues in the study of human evolution. It is widely accepted that brain size increase is partly linked to changes in diet over the last 3 million years, and increases in meat consumption and the development of cooking have received particular attention from the scientific community. In a new study published in The Quarterly Review of Biology, Dr. Karen Hardy and her team bring together archaeological, anthropological, genetic, physiological and anatomical data to argue that carbohydrate consumption, particularly in the form of starch, was critical for the accelerated expansion of the human brain over the last million years, and coevolved both with copy number variation of the salivary amylase genes and controlled fire use for cooking.
With global increase in obesity and diet-related metabolic diseases, interest has intensified in ancestral or 'Palaeolithic' diets, not least because -- to a first order of approximation -- human physiology should be optimized for the nutritional profiles we have experienced during our evolution. Up until now, there has been a heavy focus on the role of animal protein and cooking in the development of the human brain over the last 2 million years, and the importance of carbohydrate, particular in form of starch-rich plant foods, has been largely overlooked.
Hardy's team highlights the following observations to build a case for dietary carbohydrate being essential for the evolution of modern big-brained humans:
(1) The human brain uses up to 25% of the body's energy budget and up to 60% of blood glucose. While synthesis of glucose from other sources is possible, it is not the most efficient way, and these high glucose demands are unlikely to have been met on a low carbohydrate diet;
(2) Human pregnancy and lactation place additional demands on the body's glucose budget and low maternal blood glucose levels compromise the health of both the mother and her offspring;
(3) Starches would have been readily available to ancestral human populations in the form of tubers, as well as in seeds and some fruits and nuts;
(4) While raw starches are often only poorly digested in humans, when cooked they lose their crystalline structure and become far more easily digested;
(5) Salivary amylase genes are usually present in many copies (average ~6) in humans, but in only 2 copies in other primates. This increases the amount of salivary amylase produced and so increases the ability to digest starch. The exact date when salivary amylase genes multiplied remains uncertain, but genetic evidence suggests it was at some point in the last 1 million years.
Hardy proposes that after cooking became widespread, the co-evolution of cooking and higher copy number of the salivary amylase (and possibly pancreatic amylase) genes increased the availability of pre-formed dietary glucose to the brain and fetus, which in turn, permitted the acceleration in brain size increase which occurred from around 800,000 years ago onwards.
Eating meat may have kick-started the evolution of bigger brains, but cooked starchy foods together with more salivary amylase genes made us smarter still.
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
Karen Hardy, Jennie Brand-Miller, Katherine D. Brown, Mark G. Thomas, Les Copeland. The Importance of Dietary Carbohydrate in Human Evolution. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 2015; 90 (3): 251 DOI: 10.1086/682587
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