Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Research News: Encounters with Animal Minds

The News: Smuts was following a small group of Gombe baboons on the eastern edge of Kenya. She'd been with them seven days a week for weeks and weeks, joining them before dawn, spending 10 hours a day just following, watching and taking notes. One day, she says, the whole noisy group was ambling back to its "sleeping trees" (baboons sleep off the ground, up on the limbs of trees or cliffs to keep away from predators) along the shore of a stream. "I followed them walking along this stream many, many times before and many times after," she says, "but this time was different." More of the NPR story, by Robert Krulwich.

The Research:
Read the article and more encounters from an animal researcher behind this story in the Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 8, Numbers 5-7, 2001 , pp. 293-309(17).

Research News: One Dose May Be Enough

The News: Study shows one dose of H1N1 vaccine may be enough for children...
Australian researchers find that more than 90% of those in study had effective immunity after a single dose, but the 15-microgram dose of antigen is twice that used in the United States. Australian researchers have shown that a single dose of vaccine against pandemic H1N1 influenza can provide effective immunity against the swine flu virus in infants and children, a finding that, if corroborated, could help damp the spread of the virus by reducing the logistical complications associated with the currently recommended regimen of two doses. (Read more)

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Return of Research Behind the News!

The News: Biologists studying the habits of veined octopuses in the waters of Indonesia have noticed that the animal has a most unusual hobby: collecting discarded coconut shells and using them for shelter. Beyond the fact that it’s hilarious to watch the octopuses slithering across the ocean floor dragging halved coconut shells and even assembling two of them to make a creative hiding spot..., it also could be the first evidence of tool use in an invertebrate animal... (read more)

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in Current Biology

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Asteroid tracked from space to Earth

The News:

Combination of telescope data and collected debris could provide new insights
By Solmaz Barazesh
Science News Web edition : Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
They saw it coming, and they got what was coming to them. For the first time, researchers not only detected an asteroid in space, but also tracked its progress and then collected its debris after it crashed to Earth.
The car-sized asteroid, dubbed 2008 TC3, landed in northern Sudan on October 7, 2008, scientists report in the March 25 Nature. The study combines for one asteroid data that are usually separate: Comparing data from observations of the asteroid in while it was space with analysis of its meteorite fragments on Earth will yield new insights into asteroids, the scientists say.

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in Nature.

Research News: Study Links Anesthesia To Learning Disabilities

The News:

Study Links Anesthesia To Learning Disabilities
by Joseph Shapiro
Morning Edition, March 25, 2009 · Children who have had multiple surgeries under general anesthesia by the age of 4 may be at a higher risk of developing learning disabilities, according to a new study by scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
Dr. Robert Wilder, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist, says his study was motivated by recent research on baby rats and other young animals. Those studies, conducted in the last several years, show that exposure to anesthesia at a very young age can kill off brain cells. But results in rodents don't necessarily translate to humans.

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in Anesthesiology.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Research Behind the News Update

Dear Readers--We are taking a sabbatical from reporting Research Behind the News. We may resume it at some later date. Thank you for following this blog. The Authors

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Research news: No ill effects found from donating kidney

The News:
No ill effects found from donating kidney
Giving up one of the organs doesn't raise renal-failure risks or affect one's long-term health, researchers say.
By Stephanie Nano The Associated Press
Posted: 01/29/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
NEW YORK — Donating a kidney doesn't appear to have any long-term health consequences for the donor, a reassuring study shows.
Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that those who gave up one of their two kidneys lived a normal life span and were as healthy as people in the general population. The donation also didn't raise the risk of having kidney failure later.
Kidney donation has generally been considered safe, although with surgery, there are always risks. The new research of nearly 3,700 donors dating back more than four decades is the largest and longest study to look at long-term outcomes, said the researchers.
They reported their findings in today's New England Journal of Medicine.
"It is a confirmation that living donation is a safe thing," said Dr. Matthew Cooper, a transplant surgeon at the University of Maryland, who was not involved in the research.
Kidneys filter waste and excess fluid from the blood. If your kidneys fail, the options are dialysis or a transplant. More than 78,000 people are on the national waiting list to receive a kidney from a deceased donor. The need for kidneys has soared with the rise in diabetes and obesity and the wait can last for years.
Living donation has increased as more people became willing to donate and newer surgery techniques shortened recovery time. In 2007, more than a third of the 16,629 kidneys transplanted in the U.S. came from living donors, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Research news: Video games linked to poor relationships with friends, family

The News:
Video Games Linked To Poor Relationships With Friends, Family
ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2009) — A new study connects young adults' use of video games to poorer relationships with friends and family – and the student co-author expresses disappointment at his own findings.
Brigham Young University undergrad Alex Jensen and his faculty mentor, Laura Walker, publish their results Jan. 23 in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
The research is based on information collected from 813 college students around the country. As the amount of time playing video games went up, the quality of relationships with peers and parents went down.
"It may be that young adults remove themselves from important social settings to play video games, or that people who already struggle with relationships are trying to find other ways to spend their time," Walker said. "My guess is that it's some of both and becomes circular."
For the record, Walker did not stand in the way of her family's wish for a Nintendo Wii. Jensen had hoped to find some positive results as justification for playing Madden NFL.
Study participants reported how often they play video games. They also answered a battery of questions measuring relationship quality, including how much time, trust, support and affection they share with friends and parents. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Research news: Warming cuts trees' life in half

The News:
Report: Warming cuts trees' life in half
The death rate of woods in the West may also contribute to less carbon being trapped.
By Jennifer BrownThe Denver Post
Posted: 01/23/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
Updated: 01/23/2009 12:57:29 AM MST

The life span of trees in the western United States has been cut in half, and the likely cause is climate change, according to the most extensive research yet on the life span of pines, firs and hemlocks.
The death rate of trees in Colorado, California and the Pacific Northwest has more than doubled since 1955 as warmer temperatures have led to less moisture and severe drought, according to a paper published today in the journal Science.
Researchers predict the average size and age of trees eventually will decrease by half, forests will become more sparse, and trees will store less carbon than they do now, which is bad news for the planet. Trees trap carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas linked to warming temperatures.
The study "introduces the possibility that western forests could become net sources of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, further speeding up the pace of global warming," said Phillip van Mantgem, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist and study co-author.
Scientists from the USGS and the University of Colorado at Boulder said they were able to isolate regional warming as the most likely cause of increased tree mortality. They excluded air pollution and changes in forest dynamics, such as woodlands becoming more dense.
Their findings suggest that otherwise healthy trees — undisturbed by logging, fire or massive pest outbreaks — are living only half as long as they once did. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Science.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Research news: Y marks the spot for willpower

The News:
Y marks the spot for willpower
Study on sexes, curbing hunger
By Randolph E. SchmidThe Associated Press
Posted: 01/20/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
Updated: 01/20/2009 01:06:07 AM MST
WASHINGTON — Faced with their favorite foods, women are less able than men to suppress their hunger, a discovery that might help explain the higher obesity rate for females, a new study suggests.
Researchers trying to understand the brain's mechanisms for controlling food intake were surprised at the difference between the sexes in brain response.
Gene-Jack Wang of Brookhaven National Laboratory and colleagues were trying to figure out why some people overeat and gain weight while others don't.
They performed brain scans on 13 women and 10 men, who had fasted overnight, to determine how their brains responded to the sight of their favorite foods. They report their findings in today's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"There is something going on in the female," Wang said in a telephone interview, "the signal is so much different."
In the study, participants were quizzed about their favorite foods, which ranged from pizza to cinnamon buns and burgers to chocolate cake, and then were asked to fast overnight.
The next day they underwent brain scans while being presented with their favorite foods. In addition, they used a technique called cognitive inhibition, which they had been taught, to suppress thoughts of hunger and eating.
Both men and women said the inhibition technique decreased their hunger, but brain scans showed that men's brain activity actually decreased, while the part of women's brains that responds to food remained active. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (click full text (PDF).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Research news: Surgical errors cut by checklist

The News:
Surgical errors cut by checklist
Possible savings in billions, study says
By Ceci Connolly The Washington Post
Posted: 01/15/2009 12:30:00 AM MST

WASHINGTON — Surgical teams that followed a basic cockpit-style checklist in the operating room, from confirming the patient's name to discussing expected blood loss, reduced the rate of deaths and complications by more than one-third, according to a year-long, eight-nation project being released today.
Surgeons, it seems, are discovering what airline pilots learned decades ago: The human brain can't remember everything, so it's best to focus on the complicated challenges and leave the simple reminders to a cheat sheet.
"You take something as complex as surgery, and you think there isn't a lot that can be done to make it better," said Atul Gawande, a Boston physician who led the study being published in the New England Journal of Medicine. "A checklist seems like a no-brainer, but the size of the benefit is dramatic." The low-cost, low-tech intervention tested in eight hospitals around the globe could have enormous financial implications as well.
If every operating room in the United States adopted the surgical checklist, the nation could save between $15 billion and $25 billion a year in the costs of treating avoidable complications, according to calculations by the authors.
In the one-year pilot study involving 7,600 patients, the hospitals saw the rate of serious complications fall from 11 percent to 7 percent. In-patient deaths declined by more than 40 percent overall, with the most drastic reductions occurring in hospitals with fewer resources.
For the study, which was prompted by the World Health Organization, hospitals in eight countries adopted a 19-step checklist in non-cardiac surgeries. The project involved rural and urban hospitals with diverse populations in cities such as Seattle, London, New Delhi, Manila and Ifakara, Tanzania. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Research news: Biofuel Carbon Footprint Not As Big As Feared, New Analysis Finds

The News:
Biofuel Carbon Footprint Not As Big As Feared, New Analysis Finds
ScienceDaily (Jan. 19, 2009) — Publications ranging from the journal Science to Time magazine have blasted biofuels for significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, calling into question the environmental benefits of making fuel from plant material. But a new analysis by Michigan State University scientists says these dire predictions are based on a set of assumptions that may not be correct.
"Greenhouse gas release from changes in land use – growing crops that could be used for biofuels on previously unfarmed land – has been identified as a negative contributor to the environmental profile of biofuels," said Bruce Dale, MSU University Distinguished Professor of chemical engineering and materials science. "Other analyses have estimated that it would take from 100 to 1,000 years before biofuels could overcome this 'carbon debt' and start providing greenhouse gas benefits."
But as Dale and his co-authors point out in their research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, earlier analyses didn't consider a number of variables that might influence the greenhouse gas emissions associated with biofuels. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Research news: Mars' gas may indicate life

The News:
Mars' gas may indicate life
NASA reports that there are belches of methane on the planet, raising the possibility of microbes.
By Seth BorensteinThe Associated Press
Posted: 01/16/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
Updated: 01/16/2009 12:38:29 AM MST

WASHINGTON — A surprising and mysterious belch of methane gas on Mars hints at possible microbial life underground but also could come from changes in rocks, a new NASA study found.
The presence of methane on Mars could be significant because by far most of the gas on Earth is a byproduct of life — from animal digestion and decaying plants and animals.
Past studies indicated no regular methane on Mars. But new research using three ground-based telescopes confirmed that nearly 21,000 tons of methane were released during a few months of the late summer of 2003, according to a study published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Science.
"This raises the probability substantially that life was there or still survives at the present," study author Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center told The Associated Press.
Mumma also said claims of life need far more evidence. By 2006, most of the methane had disappeared from the Martian atmosphere, adding to the mystery of the gas, he said.
The Mars belch is similar to what comes out of the waters near Santa Barbara, Calif., which comes from decaying life in the sea floor.
Microbes in the Arctic and other extreme Earth environments that don't use oxygen still release methane, and they have been examples of the type of life astronomers look for on other planets. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the journal Science (click on Full text (pdf) under Article views).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Research news: Sleep puts colds to bed

The News:
Study: Sleep puts colds to bed
Those who got eight hours of sound rest were much less likely to get sick, despite exposure.
By Carla K. Johnson The Associated Press
Posted: 01/13/2009 12:30:00 AM MST
Updated: 01/13/2009 02:24:04 AM MST
CHICAGO — Fluff up the pillows and pull up the covers. Preventing the common cold may be as easy as getting more sleep.
Researchers paid healthy adults $800 to have cold viruses sprayed up their noses, then wait five days in a hotel to see whether they got sick. Habitual eight-hour sleepers were much less likely to get sick than those who slept seven hours or less or slept fitfully.
"The longer you sleep, the better off you are, the less susceptible you are to colds," said lead author Sheldon Cohen, who studies the effects of stress on health at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University.
Prior research has suggested that sleep boosts the immune system at the cell level. This is the first study to show small sleep disturbances
increasing the risk of getting sick, said Dr. Michael Irwin, who researches immune response at the University of California, Los Angeles, and was not involved in the study. Read on...

The Research:
Read the research behind this story in the Archives of Internal Medicine.