Friday, August 28, 2020

Headline Bingo

Once in a while, I end up with a whole bunch of headlines and not much inspiration. Here’s to clearing out the queue – 

Oldest material on Earth discovered

Jan 2020, BBC News


Dust grains within a space rock that crashed on Earth are found to be really old -- older than the Earth itself in fact. But I only came here to post this:


In order to analyze the rock, it has to be prepared... "Once all the pieces are segregated, it's a kind of paste, and it has a pungent characteristic – it smells like rotten peanut butter."


Asking yourself what rotten peanut butter smells like? Go find a tree-of-heaven, snap off a leaf, and smell it. It has to be a slightly older tree, not one just shooting out of the ground, or it will smell too mild and too much like not-rotten peanut butter.



Watch that smell! Scents can regulate fat storage

Apr 2020,


Honestly I can't even follow this, but it is a story that features the indispensable C. Elegans.


Ayse Sena Mutlu et al, Olfactory specificity regulates lipid metabolism through neuroendocrine signaling in Caenorhabditis elegans, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-15296-8



New sleep method strengthens brain's ability to retain memories

Mar 2020,


"By triggering consolidation processes in only one side of the brain during sleep, we were able to compare the activity between the hemispheres and isolate the specific activity that corresponds to memory reactivation," -Prof. Yuval Nir of TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of Neuroscience


While exposed to the scent of a rose, research participants were asked to remember the location of words presented on either the left or right side of a computer screen. Participants were then tested on their memory of the word locations, then proceeded to nap at the lab. As the participants were napping, the scent of roses was administered again, but this time to only one nostril.


With this "one-sided" odor delivery, the researchers were able to reactivate and boost specific memories that were stored in a specific brain hemisphere.


"Our findings emphasize that the memory consolidation process can be amplified by external cues such as scents," she concludes. "By using the special organization of the olfactory pathways, memories can be manipulated in a local manner on one side of the brain. Our finding demonstrates that memory consolidation likely involves a nocturnal 'dialogue' between the hippocampus and specific regions in the cerebral cortex." -Ella Bar, Ph.D. student at TAU and the Weizmann Institute of Science


Local Targeted Memory Reactivation in Human Sleep, Current Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.091



Study shows major gender differences in the human social brain

Mar 2020,


I bring this one up because it’s a general fact that women “smell better” than men, meaning they have a better sense of smell. Personally I think it’s because women tend to be better at communication and language, and smell has such a poor affinity for language. If women can use language better, then it will seem like they’re better at identifying and detecting smells, when really they’re just better at talking about something that most people never talk about in the first place.


The Data:

·      U.K. Biobank database, background data and MRI scans of the brains of 10,129 male and female participants.

·      36 parts of the brain involved in processing social cues and behavior.

·      Lifestyle factors such as how many people were in a household, whether a person was married, how much they enjoyed their relationships and degree of social support.


The Results:

·      Neuroanatomical associations in the amygdala that were predominant in socially stimulated women, but barely present in most of the males.

·      Differences in volume of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex of men who lived alone versus those who were socially stimulated—variations not generally seen in the brains of the women under study.


Hannah Kiesow et al. 10,000 social brains: Sex differentiation in human brain anatomy, Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz1170



Smelling a rat - How rodents sniff out fake beggars

Mar 2020,


·      Lead author is Karin Schneeberger of the University of Potsdam in Germany.

·      They took rats that were either hungry from fasting overnight, or well-fed, and placed them in a room separate from the "focal" rat whose generosity they wanted to test.

·      Air from the rooms of the hungry or well-fed rats was pumped into the chamber of the focal rat.

·      They found that the focal rats were much quicker to provide help -- by pulling a food tray within reaching distance of another rat -- when the air was pumped from a hungry rat's room.

·      The authors then analyzed the air around the rats and found seven different organic compounds that differed significantly in their abundance between hungry and satiated rats.

·      These might result from recently ingested food sources, the metabolic processes involved in digestion, or possibly even a pheromone that indicates hunger.

·      Taken together, these signals form a "smell of hunger" for rats that serves as a reliable cue of need, said Schneeberger.


Schneeberger K, Röder G, Taborsky M (2020) The smell of hunger: Norway rats provision social partners based on odour cues of need. PLoS Biol 18(3): e3000628.



Sweat sensor detects stress levels; May find use in space exploration

Mar 2020, phys.og


It detects cortisol in sweat. Another similar device measures uric acid in the blood.


Rebeca M. Torrente-Rodríguez et al, Investigation of Cortisol Dynamics in Human Sweat Using a Graphene-Based Wireless mHealth System, Matter (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2020.01.021



Scientists discover a new class of taste receptors

Apr 2020,


Our bodies, all bodies will be perpetually a source of wonder. Here we see how receptors meant for detecting light are used also to detect very small amounts of a bitter-tasting chemical: Much like rhodopsins turned on by very dim light, the chemically-activated opsins then initiated a molecular cascade that amplified the small signals. This enabled the flies to detect concentrations of the compound that would otherwise be insufficient to trigger a response in their sensory neurons.


Could you imagine if every pore on your body was an eyeball? Because it kind of already is.


Nicole Y. Leung et al, Functions of Opsins in Drosophila Taste, Current Biology (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.01.068


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