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Babies who had heard the recordings showed the neural signal for recognizing vowel and pitch changes in the pseudoword, and the signal was strongest for the infants whose mothers played the recording most often. They were also better than the control babies at detecting other differences in the syllables, such as vowel length. “This leads us to believe that the fetus can learn much more detailed information than we previously thought,” Partanen says, and that the memory traces are detectable after birth.”This is a well-respected group and the effects are really convincing,” says Patricia Kuhl, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington in Seattle. Combined with previous work, she says, these results suggest “that language learning begins in the womb.”

via Babies Learn to Recognize Words in the Womb | Science/AAAS | News.

Probable Human-to-Human Transmission of Avian Flu

“The first (index) patient – a 60 year old man – regularly visited a live poultry market and became ill five to six days after his last exposure to poultry. He was admitted to hospital on 11 March.
When his symptoms became worse, he was transferred to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) on 15 March. He was transferred to another ICU on March 18 and died of multi-organ failure on 4 May.

The second patient, his healthy 32 year old daughter, had no known exposure to live poultry before becoming sick. However, she provided direct and unprotected bedside care for her father in the hospital before his admission to intensive care.

She developed symptoms six days after her last contact with her father and was admitted to hospital on 24 March. She was transferred to the ICU on 28 March and died of multi-organ failure on 24 April.

Two almost genetically identical virus strains were isolated from each patient, suggesting transmission from father to daughter.

Limited transmission between humans “is not surprising, and does not necessarily indicate that the virus is on course to develop sustained transmission among humans.”

Nevertheless, they point to several traits of H7N9 are of particular concern, and conclude that, while this study might not suggest that H7N9 is any closer to delivering the next pandemic, “it does provide a timely reminder of the need to remain extremely vigilant: the threat posed by H7N9 has by no means passed.”

via First probable person to person transmission of new bird flu virus in China.

Bingo!
“Research from McGill University suggests that people who are vulnerable to developing alcoholism exhibit a distinctive brain response when drinking alcohol, according to a new study by Prof. Marco Leyton, of McGill University’s Department of Psychiatry. Compared to people at low risk for alcohol-use problems, those at high risk showed a greater dopamine response in a brain pathway that increases desire for rewards.”

“We found that people vulnerable to developing alcoholism experienced an unusually large brain dopamine response when they took a drink,” said Leyton. “This large response might energize reward-seeking behaviors and counteract the sedative effects of alcohol. Conversely, people who experience minimal dopamine release when they drink might find the sedative effects of alcohol especially pronounced.”

via Alcoholism could be linked to a hyper-active brain dopamine system.

Nanoscientists have developed an array capable of sensing touch with the same sensitivity as a human fingertip. The technology could be used to create smart skin for robots.

 

via Smart skin has the same sensitivity as human fingertips Wired UK.

 

via Transparent Brain Imaging Will Accelerate Research 10 to 100 Times | Think Tank | Big Think.

“Although gender differences on average are not under dispute, the idea of consistently and inflexibly gender-typed individuals is,” Bobbi J. Carothers of Washington University in St. Louis and Harry T. Reis of the University of Rochester explained in their study. “That is, there are not two distinct genders, but instead there are linear gradations of variables associated with sex, such as masculinity or intimacy, all of which are continuous.”

Analyzing 122 different characteristics from 13,301 individuals in 13 studies, the researchers concluded that differences between men and women were best seen as dimensional rather than categorical. In other words, the differences between men and women should be viewed as a matter of degree rather than a sign of consistent differences between two distinct groups.

via Study debunks notion that men and women are psychologically distinct | The Raw Story.

 

Way Too Fascinating

“What all this suggests is that the amygdalae, which are normally thought of as the brain’s “fear” centers, also actually *inhibit* panic attacks.”

“Researchers scare ‘fearless’ patients. Weird science for today. People with amygdala lesions don’t experience fear — they walk in the middle of the street because they are not afraid of getting hit by cars. But if you make them breathe air with extra carbon dioxide, which in normal people just causes them to try to breathe harder, in people with amygdala lesions causes panic attacks.”

via Researchers scare ‘fearless’ patients : Nature News & Comment.

 

Brain to Brain interface in real time. It has happened. Now what?

via BBC News – One rat brain ‘talks’ to another using electronic link.


Depression induced or cured within 10 seconds in rats by turning on or off neurons that release dopamine in the ventral tegmental area of the brain with the help of optogenetics (previously changing neurons to make them be turned on or off by focusing light on them). 10 seconds is shorter than the time that antidepressants usually take to work, which is some weeks. Treatment with magnesium may work within one week, and could be combined for best results with vitamin D, vitamin B12, folic acid, and omega-3.

via Stimulating dopamine-releasing neurons in the ventral tegmental area immediately extinguishes depression in mice. | MIT Technology Review.

 

Sleep Snob Technology is self-hacking at its best. 

“Sleep tracking is in vogue. You can buy gadgets shaped like headsets, bracelets, and thumb drives even under-mattress sensor pads that will track a whole constellation of sleep indicators—body temperature, movement, electrical activity in your brain—as you slumber.

The Lullaby, a prototype tracker built at the University of Washington goes one step further. It doesn’t just show when you weren’t resting well, it helps you understand why your Zs were thrown off. It tracks your sleeping environment, picking up things like room temperature, ambient light intensity, background noise—and matches those up with biological sleep signs mapped by the wrist-worn Fitbit. An IR camera takes a photograph of the sleeping subjects every 15 seconds, adding a staggered video log to sleep data being collected. Over a morning cup of coffee, on a tablet app, a user can flick through data gathered the previous night.”

via A Know-it-all Sleep Tracker | MIT Technology Review.

A Harvard professor has hatched a plan to bring back the Neanderthals—but he needs an “adventurous” female volunteer to deliver a knuckle-dragging bundle of joy.

A longer interview with George Church, the man proposing the experiment, can be read here.

 

via Wanted: ‘Adventurous’ Woman to Birth Neanderthal – Bringing Neanderthals back could save humanity, geneticist says.

via Video – How you can change the past – New Scientist.

“Now, it should be noted that the researchers aren’t trying to emulate a complete honey bee brain, but rather two specific and complex functions within it, namely vision and sense of smell.”

“By isolating and modeling these particular functions, the researchers hope to provide their flying robot with the cognitive power required to perform basic tasks — and without a set of pre-programmed instructions. It is hoped, for example, that the robotic bee will be able to detect particular odors or gasses in the same way that real bee can identify certain flowers.”

via New project aims to upload a honey bee’s brain into a flying insectobot by 2015.

Social exclusion is linked to the pain regulation center of our brain.

In this study, students who received stimulation to the portion of the prefrontal cortex responsible for pain regulation didn’t seem bothered when they were deliberately excluded in a ball tossing game.

via Feelings Of Social Pain Eased By Brain Stimulation.

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The 2D:4D ratio is considered a crude measure to indicate exposure to androgens (testosterone) in the womb. Testosterone exposure in utero has been correlated with various physical and behavioral traits.

The 2D:4D ratio is present before birth, ruling out any environmental causes. It is calculated by measuring the length of the right index finger from the crease where it joins the hand. A similar measure is taken of the right ring finger. Divide the length of the index finger of the right hand by the length of the ring finger. A longer index finger will result in a ratio higher than 1, while a longer ring finger will result in a ratio of less than 1. Ratios lower than 1 are correlated with testosterone exposure in the womb.

Some studies suggest that digit ratio correlates with health, behavior, and even sexuality in later life. Wikipedia has a list of traits correlated with digit digit ratio, including links out to detailed information about each one.

via Digit ratio – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.