Archive for: March, 2010

Dopamine and Obesity: The Food Addiction?

Mar 30 2010 Published by under Addiction, Behavioral Neuro

Sci picked this paper today partially because it was handed to her on a platter by the fantastic Dr. Pal, and partially because today she is SO HUNGRY. She's had a TON of food already today, and is still entirely ravenous. Maybe it was looking at this paper too long.
(Cereal break)
As I'm sure most of y'all out there are aware, obesity is a problem in the US. No one is sure whether it's due to increased portion size, increased availability, decreased physical activity, changes in gut bacteria, issues with our behavioral approaches to food, or all of the above. But scientists have been working for a while not only to look at the effects of overeating and obesity, but also to look at what CAUSES these things in the brain and body. And today we present a paper on an interesting piece of this puzzle, one that Sci has had a good deal of interest in: the idea of overeating as an addiction-like phenomenon. Johnson and Kenney. "Dopamine D2 receptors in addiction-like reward dysfunction and compulsive eating in obese rats." Nature Neuroscience, 2010.
(If we're going to talking about food and addiction, behold Sci's drug of choice)

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Make New Friends, But Keep the Old.

Mar 29 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Sci admits she's kind of had her head in the sand the past few weeks for a variety of reasons. And so it was to her great surprise when she was scrolling through Scienceblogs that she saw that OBSERVATIONS OF A NERD IS HERE! Sci highly recommends her weekly dose of cute, as well as all the other cool science that she blogs.
Sci also almost missed that two completely amazing blogs, Not Exactly Rocket Science and Gene Expression, have shifted over to Discover blogs. Sci is totally thrilled for them, and of course will update her RSS feed, but it won't be the SAME! *sniff*
And now, back to your regularly scheduled head in the sand.
ostrich head in sand.jpg

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Friday Weird Science: Why does coffee make you pee?

Mar 26 2010 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Last week during Weird Science, Sci got to hear a lot more about people's urine odors than she probably ever REALLY wanted to know.
But hey, why be shy?
And so you may imagine that urine and fluids have been on Sci's mind a little bit lately. Another thing has also been on Sci's mind: the sheer amount of coffee that she has been drinking.
She may be actually jonesing for her late PM dose right about now...
Sci has heard from many quarters that Coffee makes you pee, and that this is because caffeine is a diuretic. On the other hand, Sci has also heard that coffee only makes you pee because it's a liquid and you're drinking it, rather than any specific diuretic properties. So which is it?
This question is of great concern to Sci for several reasons. First, Sci drinks a lot of coffee. Second, Sci is a distance runner, and likes to compete in races. She's been reading a lot lately about how caffeine just before a workout or race is good, and can increase your performance. However, IF caffeine is ALSO a diuretic, this is something to keep in mind, because there is NOTHING worse than getting halfway through a 30K (18.5 miles, so say you're 9 miles in or so), and realizing that you REALLY have to pee (well, ok, maybe realizing you have diarrhea, or are going to vomit, pass out, or have a heart attack). Races always talk about having port-o-johns, but at the side of the trail? HAHAHAHAHAHA. No. Sci doesn't mind peeing in the woods, of course, but it wastes some seriously valuable time, especially in the shorter races, when a 30 second bathroom break WILL kill your chances of a win.
And so, Sci was curious, diuretic or not? She decided to take a look around. Maughan and Griffin. "Caffeine ingestion and fluid balance: a review" Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 2003.
Riesenhuber et al. "Diuretic potential of energy drinks." Amino Acids. 2006.
Armstrong et al. "Fluid, electrolyte, and renal indices of hydration during 11 days of controlled caffeine consumption." Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2005.
Eeek! Hold on, pee break!

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38 responses so far

Ask Scicurious: So you want to be a biomedical grad student...

Mar 24 2010 Published by under Academia

A few days ago (ok, maybe it was more than that, the days kind of blur together), Sci got an email in her inbox, and the instant she got it...she knew she had to address the crowd. For it went like this:

O neuroscientist-who-have-come-before-me,
I am a neurobiology undergrad. I am looking at graduate programs. I
have figured out that there are a great many labs out there that I
would enjoy, which is bloody great - except the number of schools
they're at is about 30.
How do I narrow this down and not either gloss over a really good
program that might be in a crap location or not select good criteria
for a curriculum or other things?
I want to hear from you especially because you're a grad
student right now.

First off, Sci noticed a vast difference between this letter than the letters full of flattery and awe which are sent Isis' way. Sci's a little jealous. Perhaps her humble manner makes her more approachable, but we all want some worship, don't we?!
(of course we do)
Anyway, on to the question. When looking at grad schools, how do you narrow it down? What should one look for in a grad program in neuroscience?

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17 responses so far

We can has Awardz!

Mar 23 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

So as Sci found out when she returned from the interminable meeting of doom and destruction, WE HAS AWARDS! Neurotopia is the winner of the best blog award in Neuroscience!
Sci is very pleased.
lolcat pleased.jpg
We would like to thank the Academy...and Research Blogging, and everyone else! w00t!
Also, Sci would like to say that she totally thrilled to be sharing this award season with so many awesome blogs, like Not Exactly Rocket Science (who made a well deserved clean sweep), Bora, Uncertain Principles, Highly Allocthonous, Respectful Insolence, and NCBI ROFL.
And it should not be forgotten that there are a TON of great blogs up there in the running. They may not have won, but they are ALL worth checking out!!!
Research Blogging Awards 2010 Winner!Research Blogging Awards 2010 Winner!

12 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Why does asparagus make your pee smell?

Mar 19 2010 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Early spring is a good time of year. Sci starts feeling a little more motivated, it's finally warm enough to feel comfortable running outside again (not that Sci ran inside, she was just very uncomfortable outside), and it's asparagus season!

When Sci was wee and her mother would try to feed her asparagus, Sci turned up her little nose at such nonsense. Why on earth would anyone eat something that was that green and looked like it had hair!?

(You can see my issue here)

I seem to remember as a child thinking that asparagus tasted over green and like unripe corn and I was very unimpressed. But as an adult I have come a real appreciation of this odd vegetable. You grill it up with some olive oil and spices on...yum. And so now I look eagerly for those little green bunches at the store.
And it was when I started eating asparagus that I heard about the pee thing.

So today's Friday Weird Science is something that REALLY makes Sci curious. I mean, usually I just look for things that make me laugh. But now I'm on a quest, I want to KNOW!
It's time for some weird and Historical (historical enough) science: Waring, et al. "The chemical nature of the urinary odour produced by man after asparagus ingestion." Xenobiotica, 1987.

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51 responses so far

Basics: Guest Post 3: Sperm maturation and ejaculation

Mar 18 2010 Published by under Basic Science Posts

What you all were waiting for has finally come! Yeah.
Sperm maturation and ejaculation
OK!! So the last time I was over here at Neurotopia we were talking about sperm in their infancy. We discussed spermatogenesis -- how we got from a diploid spermatogonial stem cell to a haploid spermatid -- and then spermiogenesis -- the process by which the spermatids acquire the features of spermatozoa: tails, acrosomes and the like.
We stopped there when the sperm had just graduated from diapers to their big kid undies, and we'll pick up where we left off.

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4 responses so far

Open Lab 2009 Reviews! (2)

Mar 17 2010 Published by under Uncategorized

Boing Boing has reviewed Open Lab 2009, Edited by yours truly, Scicurious! And they LIKED IT!!

Is it a treasure trove of awesome science geekery that will prompt dozens of cool conversations on a wide variety of topics? A handy "Follow that Blogger" guide that should get its first spine-breaks while you use it to update your RSS feed and browser bookmarks? Or, maybe, it's a giant middle finger to all the nose-in-the-air naysayers who think real science journalism only happens on dead trees.
"All of the above" is such a nice phrase, isn't it?

Sci purrs at such lovely reviews.
They especially liked Southern Fried Science's "Could Vampires Survive a Zombie Apocalypse?" which Sci also recommends.
But of course, you will not know anything about it unless you BUY IT YOURSELF!!! Boing Boing liked it and maybe you will too!

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A Tuesday Note

Mar 16 2010 Published by under Activism

Worry not, Sci is alive at this time. She is merely far more busy than usual. This, too, shall pass.
However, in this time in which there is no crazy neuroscience going on up in here (though I've got some stuff in mind), check this out. It's post over at Isis' place on languages other than English in science. It's an eye-opening post for lots of reasons, but one that caught Sci's eye was this:

We regret to inform that several of the labs belonging to the CGC have been severely damaged by the high magnitude earthquake that affected central and southern Chile last Saturday, Feb, 27th. Specifically, the labs of CGC Director Miguel Allende and Investigators Verónica Palma and Alvaro Glavic, whose labs are located at the Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, suffered significant damage and loss of equipment and materials. Besides the physical impact caused by falling, there was flooding due to a broken water main which further increased the damage. Losses are estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and work will likely be interrupted for weeks or perhaps longer. More seriously, irreplaceable reagents, stocks, samples and experiments were lost.
A large number of colleagues around the world have offered to help with the replacement of lost equipment and by hosting CGC students in their labs until the situation is normalized. We sincerely thank all of these generous offers for assistance in these difficult times. Anyone wishing to collaborate should coordinate with the Vice-rector for Research at the Universidad de Chile, Dr. Daniel Wolff. We know that efforts are being made in Europe, the US, Japan and Australia already, so it would be ideal to coordinate among the different donating institutions or individuals. We are exploring ways in which to finance transport of such materials and therefore, this should not be a concern to donor institutions or individuals. Please contact Miguel Allende regarding these matters.
To provide an idea of the type of equipment that needs to be replaced, we have compiled a list of the principal items that were lost or seriously damaged (for many, we still don't know the cost of repairing them to determine whether it is worthwhile to do so):
Fluorescence Dissecting scope, (Olympus MVX10 with 4 filter sets, 1X and 2X objectives)
Digital camera for microscopy (Leica DFC300FX)
Zeiss Fluorescence microscope
Laminar flow hood for cell culture
Cell culture CO2 incubator
Inverted microscope for cell culture use
Dissecting scope with teaching oculars (Leica)
3 dissecting scopes for microinjection of embryos
Light sources for dissection microscopes
Tabletop refrigerated centrifuge, rotors OK (Beckman)
Eppendorf Centrifuge
Analytical balance and pH meter
Gel documentation system with digital camera
3 pressure microinjectors (2 MMPI, 1 Narshige) with micromanipulators
Culture flask shaker
PCR machine (Perkin Elmer)
Capillary glass puller (Narshige)
Power supply and gel chambers (agarose and acrylamide)
There is a large number of miscellaneous smaller items that are typical of developmental biology labs, but that are more likely to be replaced locally.
We will try to expand this list to include the needs of the other Chilean developmental biologists that were similarly affected. We are also trying to establish a monetary fund to receive cash donations and we will try to make this information available as soon as possible. For now, it is possible to make cash donations in the U. S. through the Society for Developmental Biology (SDB); contact is Ida Chow. In Europe, coordination is being carried out by Roberto Mayor at UCL, London.

There's more over at Isis', but the pictures are what broke little Sci's heart. That cell culture room made my heart stop.
And it's not just the equipment. It's the grad students that make Sci sad. Months, YEARS of your data, gone like that, things broken beyond repair. It reminded me of a time when we heard about the evacuations surrounding Hurricane Katrina, and the grad students at my uni heard of New Orleans grad students and post-docs filling their cars with reagents and cell cultures instead of clothing, of taking mice and rats in their cars so they wouldn't suffer in the storm. I remember looking at my post-doc at the time, and hearing her say, "someday, that could be us". Right now, it's grad students in Chile, who never had a chance to get their stuff out, and who might even need to start over in foreign labs, with different projects, knowing that an earthquake just added years to their PhD.
We're not all developmental biologists here, obviously. But I know even in neuroscience there are Leica microscopes, analytical balances, pH meters, PCR machines, gel chambers, pullers. Maybe someone just shut down a lab and there's equipment sitting around. Maybe you just replaced your old machine with a new one.
Maybe you could think about seeing if these scientists could use it.

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Friday Weird Science: Ejaculation 1, 2, 3...

Mar 12 2010 Published by under Friday Weird Science

Well well well. Here we are. It's Friday. And we've been talking about SPERM ALL WEEK.
What to do...what to do... Nel-Themaat et al. "Quality and freezing qualities of first and second ejaculates collected from endangered Gulf Coast Native rams" Animal Reproduction Science, 2006.
So it turns out that the people who wrote the study Sci covered the other week wrote ANOTHER one. Also, it turns out the eland is not endangered, but the other species they were working with, the Gulf Coast Native Sheep, IS endangered. Though it's a rather odd beastie, in that it originally was from a population of European sheep brought over to the US, which escaped, went feral, and is now considered its own variety. This is an important sheep to look at in particular because the Gulf Coast Sheep has become adapted to living in a moist environment (as some of you may be aware, the southeast of the US is very moist, in some areas is it entirely IMPOSSIBLE to get all the mildew out of your house EVER), being less sensitive to parasites and less sensitive to fungal problems like foot rot. This means that if you wanted to, say, work with sheep in humid environments (sheep are often introduced domestically for very poor areas, and the southeastern US is apparently trying to reintroduce them. It is Sci's hope that they might eat the dang kudzu), you might want to take a look at these Gulf Coast sheep, and maybe steal of their useful genes for your benefit. And of course if you are going to steal some genes and breed some of these Gulf Coast sheep into your stock you need...some sperm.
Sheep cartoon.jpg
Multiple ejaculates. Because once is never enough.
Oh and also:
For those who don't know about kudzu. It SUCKS. A lot. There's a house under there, under the lump in the middle. Really. It was introduced (I think from Japan) as something for cows and sheep and stuff to forage on. Also, it was apparently ornamental (*snort*). There was only one problem with the plant.
Cows WON'T EAT IT. I mean, they'll eat it if they're STARVING, but they don't enjoy it. Goats don't either. NO ONE DOES. And kuzdu can grow like...kudzu. In the southeast, it takes over EVERYTHING. Every spring and summer becomes a war on the kudzu. A sheep that would eat this crap would get a grateful hug from Sci every day of it's little life. It would also get VERY fat.
Anyway. Back to semen. I know what you guys REALLY want to hear about.

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