Archive for: February, 2012

Love and Pain, Scientists answer your questions this Valentine's Day!

Feb 14 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Sci does not celebrate Valentine's Day in general. I prefer to celebrate tomorrow, February 15th, otherwise known as the day when all the chocolate goes 50% off and I wallow in glorious sugar.

But for those of you who want to celebrate Valentine's Day SCIENCE-STYLE, head over to the Stanford website and twitter feed, where they will be having an expert to answer your questions on the neuroscience of pain and how love could affect it. I think it's a fabulous way to do science outreach and get people interested in research.

Follow @@SUMedicine and make sure to add the hashtag #AskSUMed. They'll take your questions until Friday and have a scientist ready to answer!

And tomorrow, or maybe the day after, I'll have to post photos of my post-Valentine's candy haul. 🙂

One response so far

At SciAm Blogs, Minding your Interactions to Mind your Inflammation

Feb 13 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Sci is at SciAm Blogs today, talking about a new study in humans looking at normal, every day social interactions and cytokines, one of the important signaling molecules in inflammation. IS you competitive spirit bad for your health? Head over and find out!

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Word of the Week: Bromide

Feb 12 2012 Published by under Word of the Week

This word of the week has meanings both in science and in normal, every day language.

Bromide: An anion of the element bromine, element 35.
Bromide: A word used to indicate a platitude, especially one used WAY too often, and which has no real use or meaning, except that meant to make you feel better, like "take things a day at a time", or "go with the flow". Do you feel better yet?

I now wonder how many chemists have made bromide jokes in their dissertations.

5 responses so far

On a lack of a safety net.

Feb 11 2012 Published by under Activism

I saw Kevin's post about his son on SciAm Blogs the other day. It just about broke my heart seeing all the hard decisions, the fear, and the suffering that Kevin and his family have gone through. I think his story should be read by as many people as possible, especially those in charge of health care policy. I spend my life researching for new cures, I want to make sure people can get them when they need them.

So I took the opportunity this morning to email my congresscritter, and I hope, if you agree, you will too (if you don't, well, then don't). The text of my email is below, if you'd like to use any of it. It's probably not the best, I'm rather inexperienced at emailing govt types, but lately I've been trying.

Dear Congresscritter,

I know that health care reform has not progressed with the speed necessary, but most of the time I don't myself realize how much it is hurting the people in our nation. I am comfortable and insured, but I know many people now who are not.

I would like to share with you the story of my friend Kevin. He has a Masters degree in Biology, is the father of two kids, and a fantastic science writer who educates thousands of people on marine science. He is uninsured. And recently his 6 year old son came down with pneumonia.

His story is here: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/evo-eco-lab/2012/02/10/trying-to-catch-his-breathe-with-a-hole-ridden-safety-net/

A quote "Uninsured people look just like everyone else. They might look like they can easily afford the premiums and in fact might earn salaries similar to yours. But every family’s situations and employment-based coverage options are unique and this goes far beyond stereotypes of the “working poor”. My son could have suffocated from his pneumonia had we not sucked it up and rushed him to the hospital on Tuesday morning. If we were able to see a doctor a day earlier, he perhaps could have been treated at home as an outpatient with antibiotics. I don’t know what our final bill will be when we leave tomorrow morning, right now I don’t care. All I know is my son got better under the supervision of a wonderful team of nurses and pediatricians."

We are all trying to help him out as much as we can. I don't expect you to donate anything, but I would like you to think of him, and his son, as we push forward on health care. Share his story with other representatives, and know that his is only one story, among thousands of people suffering. Think of the lives, the suffering, and heck, the money we could save by being able to make sure that he and his children, and the many families like them, have a health safety net.

Thank you,
Scicurious, PhD

And if you'd like to give a little to help out Kevin and his family, please head over here.

5 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Sssssnakes can ssssmelll your menstrual ssssecretions

Feb 10 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

After last week's post on whether the bears can smell the menstruation (hehe, I can't get over that quote), I was inundated with questions and tips for papers. People asked if menstruation attracted sharks (answer: no one has tested it, right now shark attacks are 9.2:1 male:female, but that's probably due to differences in being in the right place at the right time, rather than being on your period. But I think I need to dangle some bloody tampons in shark infested waters...for science), if dogs were attracted to the smell of menstruation (I've been looking and looking for studies, but apparently that hasn't been done either), all sorts of things. But the vast majority of these studies...haven't been done. From all the stories I've heard of animals being attracted to menstrual blood, you'd have thought every female Homo sapiens on the planet would be ripped apart by wolves the instant she started menstruating.

But we're all still HERE. So I have to think that, until there are studies proving otherwise, most other mammals, and hopefully sharks, don't really care if you're seeping a little bit of endometrium from your nether regions.

But there IS one species, apparently that DOES care.

The brown tree snake.

Chiszar et al. "Response of brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis) to human blood" Journal of Chemical Ecology, 1993.

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8 responses so far

At SciAm Blogs Today: This is your brain on Psilocybin

Feb 08 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

...and unfortunately, that's all this paper is. Check out your brain on drugs, and read why I really wanted something better, over at The Scicurious Brain. Check it out!

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At SciAm Blogs today: Neuronal Transplants for treatment of Obesity

Feb 06 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Sci is at SciAm today, talking about using neuronal transplants in genetically altered mice, to treat their severe obesity and diabetes. The work tells us a lot about how appetite and metabolism are controlled by the hypothalamus, and it also gives a hint as to how much we don't know. Head over there and check it out.

One response so far

Word of the Week: CREB

Feb 05 2012 Published by under Word of the Week

Today's word of the week is actually an acronym: CREB, the c-AMP response element binding protein. CREB is a very popular protein in studies of things like addiction and mood disorders, and particularly interesting to people to study memory. It binds to specific bits of DNA (called, easily enough c-AMP response elements), and by binding to the site, can cause the genes downstream from that area to either increase or decrease in transcription. It controls the transcription of many other important proteins, including things like somatostatin, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and corticotropin releasing hormone. Though CREB causes changes in these proteins and others, many scientists study CREB itself, looking for changes there first, and then looking at what genes are affected.

2 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Does your menstrual blood attract BEARS?!

Feb 03 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science

While Sci was listening eagerly to Kate Clancy's appearance on Skeptically Speaking last Sunday (you'll be able to download the episode soon), I was flabbergasted to find out that there is a rumor out there that, if you go out hiking on your period...you might attract BEARS.

(I totally forgot about this until someone on Twitter pointed it out. Awesome)

Bears?!

Not only that, the rumor was apparently widespread enough that someone actually did a study to find out if it was true.

Which is good, I'd hate to fear for my life while hiking because I'm shedding my uterine lining. I'd like the think bears are more sensible than that.

But I'll admit, a part of me was a little worried. After all, I have been camping, and had our campsite raided by bears, because someone left their toothpaste out of the bear box. Apparently bears in Yosemite National Park love them some minty freshness. And if toothpaste is on the menu, why not tampons? I mean, bears will eat most anything, right? Luckily, science is here for us, and science wants us to know, it's ok to menstruate around bears. Black bears, anyway.

Rogers et al. "Reactions of black bears to human menstrual odors" The Journal of Wildlife Management, 1991.

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28 responses so far

Gum Chewing for Weight Loss, Does Chewing Help?

Feb 01 2012 Published by under Health Care/Medicine, Uncategorized

As preparation for this post and in the interests of full disclosure, I felt the need to pop in a piece of gum while writing. Never mind that the only gum I could find was caffeinated. That gives this post a little extra...zest.

Anyway, in talking with several friends over the years about methods of weight loss, especially controlling cravings and preventing snacking, many of them have mentioned that they chew a lot of sugar free gum. Some said it helped prevent cravings, others said it fooled them into not thinking they were hungry. Me, I feel like it stops me from eating because it feels like I've just brushed my teeth. But I've always wondered, does it really work? Does chewing gum help with your weight loss?

Luckily, the boys over at Obesity Panacea found out for me. And sadly, the answer is apparently no. 🙁

Shikany, et al. "Randomized Controlled Trial of Chewing Gum for Weight Loss" Intervention and Prevention, 2011.

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8 responses so far

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