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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.