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September 14, 2012

New brain implant makes monkeys 10% smarter

Brain Implant Improves Thinking in Monkeys - NYTimes.com
Scientists have designed a brain implant that sharpened decision making and restored lost mental capacity in monkeys, providing the first demonstration in primates of the sort of brain prosthesis that could eventually help people with damage from dementia, strokes or other brain injuries. The device, though years away from commercial development, gives researchers a model for how to support and enhance fairly advanced mental skills in the frontal cortex of the brain, the seat of thinking and planning. The new report appeared Thursday in The Journal of Neural Engineering. In just the past decade, scientists have developed brain implants that improve vision or allow disabled people to use their thoughts to control prosthetic limbs or move computer cursors. The new paper, led by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of Southern California, describes a device that improves brain function internally, by fine-tuning communication among neurons. . . .

September 13, 2012

This is what happens when you pour lava over ice

Lava Poured On Ice

Is sugar consumption linked to Alzheimers?

The Sugar and Alzheimer's Connection | Mother Jones
Egged on by massive food-industry marketing budgets, Americans eat a lot of sugary foods. We know the habit is quite probably wrecking our bodies, triggering high rates of overweight and diabetes. Is it also wrecking our brains? That's the disturbing conclusion emerging in a body of research linking Alzheimer's disease to insulin resistance—which is in turn linked to excess sweetener consumption. A blockbuster story in the Sept. 3 issue of the UK magazine The New Scientist teases out the connections. . . . What's emerging, the magazine shows, is that insulin "also regulates neurotransmitters, like acetylcholine, which are crucial for memory and learning." That's not all: "And it is important for the function and growth of blood vessels, which supply the brain with oxygen and glucose. As a result, reducing the level of insulin in the brain can immediately impair cognition." So when people develop insulin resistance, New Scientist reports, insulin spikes "begin to overwhelm the brain, which can't constantly be on high alert," And then bad things happen: "Either alongside the other changes associated with type 2 diabetes, or separately, the brain may then begin to turn down its insulin signalling, impairing your ability to think and form memories before leading to permanent neural damage"—and eventually, Alzheimer's. . . .

This is an HD video of the sun ejecting plasma in a stream hundreds of times the size of Earth

Solar coronal mass ejection in full HD

September 05, 2012

Monsanto's genetically-modified corn is creating superworms

How Genetically Modified Corn Is Creating Super Worms | ThinkProgress
Monsanto’s GM corn and soybean seeds have become so widespread over the past two decades that now, a new crop of “superweeds” have evolved to resist these potent chemicals. Farmers then have little choice but to buy Monsanto’s beefed up seeds in an arms race with nature. Now, the EPA is launching a review of one of Monsanto’s corn strains engineered to produce the natural pesticide Bt. As the agency told Bloomberg, “There is mounting evidence raising concerns that insect resistance is developing in parts of the corn belt,” where Monsanto’s corn dominates the fields. Root worms exposed to the corn’s toxin seem to have become immune to it, breeding an unprecedented colony of superworms that are bound to spread throughout the entire Midwest. Meanwhile, Monsanto recently released a new sweet corn variety containing the Bt pesticide. And for the first time, Monsanto will market this corn as fresh produce, rather than an ingredient for processed foods. Although Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and General Mills have refused to carry the corn, Walmart will start stocking the GM sweet corn in the coming months, without any label to let consumers know what they are buying. And Monsanto hopes to keep consumers in the dark. The company recently spent $4.2 million trying to kill a November ballot initiative in California that would require labeling on food products containing genetically modified ingredients. Proposition 37 would bring the state in line with Japan, China, the European Union, and Australia, which already require labels on genetically modified foods. 91 percent of Americans support GMO labeling.

August 31, 2012

Study finds that girls exposed to household chemicals hit puberty earlier

Early puberty? Girls exposed to household chemical menstruate earlier, CDC study finds. — Environmental Health News
Girls exposed to high levels of a common household chemical had their first period seven months earlier than girls with lower exposures, according to new research by federal scientists. “This study adds to the growing body of scientific research that exposure to environmental chemicals may be associated with early puberty,” said Danielle Buttke, a reproductive physiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who was the study’s lead author. Age of menarche – when a girl has her first period – has fallen over the past century, from an average of 16-17 years to 12-13 years. Experts are not sure why, but they suspect that better nutrition and rising obesity rates play a major role. Some evidence also points to chemicals in consumer products that can mimic estrogen, a hormone that is critical to the timing of puberty.
*Thanks, Sara!*