October 18, 2013

During sleep, your "glymphatic system," or brain-cleaning system, kicks into high gear–sweeping away all "by-products of neural activity" that clog the brain, says author of study Maiken Nedergaard.     Photo: RelaxingMusic/Flickr

Sleep Cleans Your Brain

Shut-eye Good for Neural Maintenance

Getting enough sleep ensures a clean brain and a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center told NPR.

The study, conducted on mice, reveals that the system in charge of washing toxicities from the brain ramps up during sleep. In mice, the brain also contracts, making room for a fluid to flush out the spaces between neurons and drain plaque-like proteins into the bloodstream.

"It's probably not possible for the brain to both clean itself and at the same time [be] aware of the surroundings and talk and move and so on," says Maiken Nedergaard, professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester and author of the study published in Science.

This explains why we can have trouble thinking after a sleepless night; neural maintenance appears most effective while we snooze.

The results also offer scientists a place to start in the development of controlled sleep as treatment for those at risk of Alzheimer's. Nedergaard notes: "Isn't it interesting that Alzheimer's and all other diseases associated with dementia—they are linked to sleep disorders?"

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Mountain Yeti     Photo: VFS Digitial Design/Flickr

Himalayan Yeti Myth Explained

In case you were wondering

An Oxford genetics professor studying the Himalayan yeti believes the creature (or at least the creature behind the myth) is a hybrid between polar bears and brown bears.

Bryan Sykes had been testing hairs from two unidentified animals (possibly yetis) when he found a 100 percent match with a 40,000-year-old polar bear sample, reports BBC News. During that ancient time period, brown bears and polar bears were thought to be separating as different species.

The hybrid bear (yeti?) "may still be there and may have quite a lot of polar bear in it," Sykes told the BBC. "If its behavior is different from normal bears, which is what eyewitnesses report, then I think that may well be the source of the mystery and the source of the legend."

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Unidentified athletes compete during annual Corrib Oil Streets of Galway 8K road race, on August 11, 2012 in Galway, Ireland.     Photo: Rihardzz / Shutterstock.com

Races Crack Down on Aliases

Identification now required at many events

If you've entered a road race in the last decade, it's likely you've competed against Bruce Wayne, who's appeared in the results of at least 41 races in the U.S. since 2005, including the Philadelphia and New Jersey marathons.

Runners all across the country enter races using fake names, sometimes to conceal what might be an embarrassing PR, or just to get a few laughs. According to Runner's World Newswire, many race directors in the U.S. say they can no longer allow runners to conceal their identities due to security reasons—especially after the Boston Marathon bombings—and medical concerns.

"If that person collapses on the course, I don't know who they are, who their emergency contact is, what allergies they might have," Lowell Ladd, who manages East Coast marathon, told Runner's World.   


What's the your favorite racing alias? Tag it on the image below. 


Runners at the 2005 Chicago Marathon Photo: Richard Smith/Wikimedia

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    Photo: Jan Zoetekouw / Shutterstock.com

Monkeys Take Turns Talking

Marmosets converse like humans

Humans often take for granted that when they speak, others (ideally) wait for them to finish before responding. Surprisingly, this conversational turn-taking—talking, listening, replying—has not been observed in other primates, including our closest relatives, chimpanzees, who instead use gestures as the basis fore their communication.

Until recently. Researchers at Princeton University report that the Marmoset monkey exhibits similar communication style to humans when it comes to conversing. They monkeys don’t seem to have an actual language, reports Wired, but the timing of their calls suggests the foundations of human language.

When placed out of sight of one another, monkeys in one area would wait to respond until monkeys in another area finished calling, following “unspoken rules of conversational etiquette.”

This finding, reported in the journal Current Biology, suggests that human conversational turn-taking might have evolved via a similar route, although on a parallel branch of the evolutionary tree.

“If we don’t take turns, if we’re overlapping, it’s very difficult to understand each other,” said Princeton’s Asif Ghazanfar, who co-authored the study. “Turn-taking is foundational.”

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Fossil at the National Museum of Natural History     Photo: Cargo Cult/Flickr

Skull Discovery May Answer Evolutionary Questions

Scientist study 1.8-million-year-old skull

A nearly intact skull uncovered in 2005 may change much of what we know about human evolution. On Thursday, a group of scientists outlined eight years of research regarding what they call "Skull 5" in the journal Science. The 1.8-million-year-old skull, found in the republic of Georgia, seems to simplify our evolutionary story and provide clarity on variations within our species, reports The New York Times.

Skull 5, found alongside four others, initially caused scientists to believe there were multiple species of early hominids living in the same region. However, scientists can now believe that Skull 5 had different characteristics compared to other hominids of its time—much like there are variations in humans today.

In the journal Science, Ian Tattersall of the American Museum of Natural History said the skull "is undoubtedly one of the most important ever discovered.”

Scientists believe that members of the species to which Skull 5 belonged to were short in stature, had a small braincase, but very long limbs that enabled them to walk long distances, according to The Times.

The excavation sites in the republic of Georgia were thought to be ancient predators' dens. Scientists believe these early hominids were likely killed by saber-tooth cats and giant cheetahs, which lived roughly two million years ago.

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A dog running in the Athens Marathon 2012. Note: This dog is not Boogie Butts, who ran the Evansville Half Marathon.     Photo: Petros Papaetropoulos/Shutterstock

Dog That Ran Half-Marathon Dies

Chocolate lab suffers heart attack

Boogie Butts, the runaway chocolate lab who bandited the Evansville Half-Marathon last Saturday passed away just three days after the race. Boogie was ten years old and is survived by his owner, Jerry Butts.

"It is with great sadness that we inform you that Boogie passed away due to a heart attack on Tuesday, October 15," Jerry Butts wrote on Boogie's Facebook page.

Boogie garnered national attention this week for setting an unofficial record in the half-marathon for unassisted dogs. Boogie reportedly broke free from his owner's leash the night before the race and ran the majority of the half-marathon the next morning—unchaperoned and without his owner's knowledge. Boogie finished in two hours and 15 minutes and bested 1,128 of the race's registered, two-legged participants.

A veterinary technician at Cape Veterinary Clinic in South Portland, Maine, told Runner's World Newswire that it is purely conjecture to say a half-marathon caused the dog's heart attack without knowing the dog's medical history.


Lost Dog Completes Half-Marathon, is Reunited With Owner


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In a Harvard study, men who consumed half a portion of processed meat a day had just 5.5 percent "normal"-shaped sperm, compared to 7.2 percent of those who ate less.     Photo: dream designs/Shutterstock

Processed Meat Reduces Male Fertility

Baby, or baby-back ribs?

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have found that men who eat at least half a portion of processed meat a day—including bacon, hamburgers, sausage, and hot dogs—corrupt the size and shape of their sperm cells and reduce their fertility.

Scientists are not sure why this occurs, but they believe the pesticides in red meat can interfere with hormones.

Conversely, the same research shows that consuming zinc-rich white fish, such as cod or halibut, bolsters fertility, as study participants who ate at least half a portion of white fish a day developed a greater percentage of "normal" sperm cells than those who did not.

Does that change your weekend barbecue menu?

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