JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Physicians build much less of an emotional rapport with overweight and obese patients than with patients of normal weight, a study suggests.
The study was small—involving 39 primary care doctors and 208 patients—but has potentially significant implications, because bonding with doctors is important for good health outcomes. Earlier studies showed that patients of more empathetic physicians are more likely to adhere to recommendations and respond to behavior-change counseling.
CARDIFF U. (UK) — Babies who get less sweaty in response to scary situations at age one show more physical and verbal aggression at age three, according to new research.
Lower levels of sweat, as measured by skin conductance activity (SCA), have been linked with conduct disorder and aggressive behavior in children and adolescents.
WASHINGTON U. – ST. LOUIS (US) — Two tiny grains of silica found in primitive meteorites could be from the same supernova, a massive star that exploded at the end of its life.
This discovery is surprising because silica is not one of the minerals expected to condense in stellar atmospheres—in fact, it has been called “a mythical condensate.”
U. MICHIGAN (US) — Fossil snail shells offer new clues to an abrupt climate shift that transformed the planet nearly 34 million years ago.
At that time, the Earth switched from a warm, “greenhouse” state to the variable climate of the modern “icehouse” world. Massive ice sheets grew across the Antarctic continent, major animal groups shifted, and ocean temperatures decreased by up to 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit).
WASHINGTON U. – ST. LOUIS (US) — The decoded genome of a popular aquarium fish could help explain why they are prone to developing melanomas and how they evolved a set of complex behaviors.
Among scientists, the fish are meticulously studied for their tendency to develop melanoma and for other attributes more common to mammals, like courting prospective mates and giving birth to live young.
Known scientifically as Xiphophorus maculatus, platyfish sport a variety of spectacular colors—brilliant oranges, yellows, and lovely iridescent silver—and myriad striped and speckled patterns. And when melanomas develop, they are easy to spot, even to an untrained eye.
UC BERKELEY (US) — When we’re looking for something specific, like a lost pet or a contact lens on the floor, the brain redirects various visual and non-visual regions to help.
That means that if we’re looking for a youngster lost in a crowd, the brain areas usually dedicated to recognizing other objects such as animals, or even the areas governing abstract thought, shift their focus and join the search party. Thus, the brain rapidly switches into a highly focused child-finder, and redirects resources it uses for other mental tasks.
“Our results show that our brains are much more dynamic than previously thought, rapidly reallocating resources based on behavioral demands, and optimizing our performance by increasing the precision with which we can perform relevant tasks,” says Tolga Cukur, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience at University of California, Berkeley and lead author of the study published in Nature Neuroscience.
MCGILL (CAN) — The popular puzzle video game Tetris appears to be a winner when it comes to treating adults with amblyopia, commonly known as “lazy eye.”
By distributing information between the two eyes in a complementary fashion, the video game trains both eyes to work together, which is counter to previous treatments for the disorder, which included patching.
U. MISSOURI (US) — Food safety and bioterrorism defense may benefit from an improved toxin detection test that researchers are hoping will boost the economy, too.
The technique could make food contamination testing more rapid and accurate. The detection test also could accelerate warnings after bioterrorism attacks. A report on the method is published in Biosensors and Bioelectronics.
“Quickly stopping the spread of toxins saves lives, whether those toxins are from natural processes or enemy attacks,” says lead author Sangho Bok, postdoctoral fellow working under the supervision of Shubhra Gangopadhyay in the University of Missouri’s College of Engineering.
MICHIGAN STATE (US) — College coaches who emphasize players’ academic abilities may be the best defense against negative typecasting of student athletes.
Researchers found that student-athletes were significantly more likely to be confident in the classroom if they believed their coaches expected high academic performance, not just good enough grades to be eligible for sports.
“Coaches spend a lot of time with their players, and they can play such an important role to build academic confidence in student-athletes,” says lead author Deborah Feltz, professor at Michigan State University.
BOSTON U. (US) — Researchers find that even moderate drinking, one and a half drinks per day, can be attributed to nearly 6,000 cancer deaths annually in the US.
Timothy Naimi, a Boston University School of Medicine and School of Public Health associate professor, and his team suggest that the number of deaths from moderate drinking should not be ignored. Add in alcohol consumption at all levels and the total surges to 20,000 cancer deaths a year, or 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths, according to the study.
For men, lethal alcohol-caused cancer typically afflicts the mouth, throat, and esophagus, the researchers say. In women, breast cancer is the most common cancer killer linked to alcohol consumption.
BOSTON U. (US) — Three decades of research suggest that kids of gay parents are faring well, a new report argues.
When the Supreme Court took up the issue of gay marriage recently, Justice Antonin Scalia claimed that experts debate whether same-sex parents are bad for children.
JOHNS HOPKINS (US) — Scientists have found that the brain can bring together unconnected memories about places, allowing us to mentally map out new routes to get us where we want to go.
Researchers monitoring the activity of special cells in the hippocampus of rat brains were able to see the rats’ “thoughts” as they navigated through familiar territory in search of a chocolate reward.
U. MICHIGAN (US) — A twist on the usual way proteins are made may explain mysterious symptoms in the grandparents of some children with mental disabilities.
Researchers say the discovery may lead to better treatments for older adults with a recently discovered genetic condition that causes shakiness and balance problems and is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease.
UNC-CHAPEL HILL (US) — New protocols and policies are needed to help physicians assess a patient’s physical or mental competency to carry a concealed weapon, say experts.
In the wake of recent mass shootings, such as the one in Newtown, Conn., physicians are increasingly being called on to pass judgment in the permitting process on whether their patient is physically and mentally competent to safely have and use a concealed weapon.
U. WASHINGTON (US) — Astronomers have discovered perhaps the most Earth-like planet yet found outside our solar system.
Researchers say Kepler 62f is a small, probably rocky planet orbiting a sunlike star in the Lyra constellation. The planet is about 1.4 times the size of Earth, receives about half as much solar flux, or heat and radiation, as Earth and circles its star in 267.3 (Earth) days.
U. MICHIGAN (US) — Students who attend large high schools are less likely to form interracial friendships, new research finds.
For a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used both simulated and real data to examine how the size of a community affects the way young people form friendships.
RICE (US) — A new robot is designed to automate the process of cleaning recessed windows in buildings that present problems for more traditional washers—both human and machine.
A team of Rice University seniors—that includes Julia Bleck, Michael Liu, Erin O’Malley, and Andria Remirez based at the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen—in collaboration with Nourelhouda Derbeli and Ali Abdmouleh, students from Tunisia, built the WashBOT as part of a multiyear robotics project.
Washing a window seems simple for a person, but it’s complicated for a robot. First, one has to get the machine in position. Then there are variables to account for: the size of the window, depth of the recess, application of the cleaning agent … and the squeegee. “That’s the most difficult part,” Remirez says.
NORTHWESTERN (US) — Rehearsing memories, during either sleep or waking, can affect what is remembered later, new research reveals.
The study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, shows that when the information that makes up a memory has a high value—associated with, for example, making more money—the memory is more likely to be rehearsed and consolidated during sleep and, thus, be remembered.
Also, through the use of a direct manipulation of sleep, the research demonstrated a way to encourage the reactivation of low-value memories so they too were remembered later.
STONY BROOK (US) — Pure gold nanoparticles found in everyday items such as personal care products can inhibit fat storage, slow wound healing, and accelerate wrinkling.
Gold nanoparticles are also used for drug delivery, as MRI contrast agents, and in solar cells.
MICHIGAN STATE (US) — When the woods get crowded, pregnant squirrels improve their offspring’s odds of survival by ramping up hormones that help their babies grow.
A study showed for the first time how females use social cues to correctly prepare their offspring for life outside the nest. The results, published in Science, confirm that red squirrel mothers boost stress hormone production during pregnancy, which increases the size and the chances of survival of their pups.
“Natural selection favors faster-growing offspring, and female red squirrels react accordingly to increase their pups’ chances of survival,” says Ben Dantzer, formerly with Michigan State University’s zoology department and now at the University of Cambridge.