A fun study about men’s brains and pornography was reported in JAMA Psychiatry online first. Despite the cautionary comments of the author about what the results might mean (below), the news media certainly sounded the alarms and published their own interpretation of the results (titles from time.com and telegraph.co.uk).
“It’s not clear, for example, whether watching porn leads to brain changes or whether people born with certain brain types watch more porn. Unfortunately we cannot answer this question based on the results of the present study,” said Simone Kühn, the study’s lead author from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. “We found that the volume of the so-called striatum, a brain region that has been associated with reward processing and motivated behavior was smaller the more pornography consumption the participants reported. Moreover we found that another brain region, that is also part of the striatum that is active when people see sexual stimuli, shows less activation the more pornography participants consumed,” Kühn added.
Manhattanhenge, a term popularized by Neil deGrasse Tyson, is an accidental Manhattan tribute to Stonehenge that happens tonight (May 29). Thousands of years from now, aliens, archaeologists, or whoever, will think our society celebrated May 29th and July 12th and planned our cities around these dates.
“Dr. Tyson has said that Manhattanhenge “may just be a unique urban phenomenon in the world, if not the universe.”
The best views are to be had from the East Side on the major cross streets:14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd and 57th.
Right now there are less than 10 trained scientists in Congress (sad article here). The article linked below makes a strong argument for why we need more scientists in politics, and includes one of the most bada$$ quotes about science and politics EVER (bolded below). Given that the number of science PhD’s highly exceeds the number of jobs in academia, graduate programs and mentors should highlight and encourage politics as a career path to students and postdocs (maybe even include training). If not for their own selfish interest (science policy and funding), then for the desperate need for science to be accurately represented in America and american politics.
“Scientists must become part of the political process and run for office. At a time when science bears on many of the world’s problems, we have a Congress full of lawyers who are trained not to get at the truth but to defeat their opponent at any cost — including the truth. As Otto points out, science is unavoidably political. Science is knowledge. Knowledge is power. Power is politics. So, science is politics.”
“I consider myself a social liberal and a fiscal conservative. I believe that climate change exists, and is contributed to by human activity. I have seen firsthand the effects of climate change, in trips to Antarctica and Mt. Kilimanjaro, both of which are showing huge changes due to global warming. I’m in favor of equal pay for women, and the Lilly Ledbetter act. I believe in equal rights for the LGBT community; in fact, this winter, I braved the Minnesota winter weather to attend a gay wedding (which was officiated over by my wife).” -Alex Trebek
I recently saw this article posted all over the interwebs claiming that bacon is the fountain of youth (even though the articles are all from awhile ago). Although the study that this article is based on is actually really cool and turns some of our aging theories on their head, the whole bacon thing is a huge stretch. The study (done in my favorite model organism, C. elegans) was looking at vitamins… not bacon, and needs to be translated into mammals. ScienceDaily has a great summary (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130930101836.htm). Below is the link to the study itself.
A new type of initiative is empowering graduate students and postdocs to reshape their academic training, providing another avenue to express their passion for research.
As graduate students, we have become disillusioned with our academic training. We began graduate school full of ambition, drive and optimism but have long since come to realize that we have joined a system that does not meet our diverse interests. We yearn for a community that supports creativity and the expression of future career goals instead of one with a narrow, focused interest.
Current PhD training programs are focused primarily on the academic career track despite its disheartening outlook: the number of awarded PhDs is significantly outpacing the available positions1, 2, fiscal pressures have slowed the growth of available independent research jobs 3 and the…
Super exciting… even if it is too many acronyms (DARPA, SUBNETS, and DBS). Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is already used to treat parkinsons disease and other neuropsychiatric disorders, so some fresh technology and money into this research will definitely help therapeutics!
“DARPA created the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS) program to pursue advances in neuroscience and neurotechnology that could lead to new clinical understanding of how neuropsychological illnesses manifest in the brain and to advanced therapies to reduce the burden and severity of illness in afflicted troops and veterans. The program will pursue a new investigative approach that establishes the characteristics of distributed neural systems and attempts to develop and apply therapies that incorporate near real-time recording, analysis and stimulation in next-generation devices inspired by current Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS).”
Three really interesting brain imaging studies were reported this week. I post news articles from each, and the NCBI link for those available, some are ahead of press, so I couldn’t post those, but looked through them.
3) This in-depth study analyzed changes in the brains of parents that are involved in primary or secondary care of children using fMRI. In addition to imaging, subjects were also analyzed for parental behavior and hormonal levels. This study compared changes in the brain associated with caregiving of mothers that were primary-caregivers, fathers that were secondary-caregivers, and fathers that were primary-caregivers. To make things more interesting, the authors compared heterosexual mothers (primary) and heterosexual fathers (secondary), to homosexual fathers (primary). The study defined brain networks (mentalizing and emotional processing) involved in caregiving and found that gay fathers have brain changes similar to mothers in the emotional processing network and similar to fathers in the mentalizing network. Essentially gay fathers have co-activation of both networks… super dad. Personally, I would love to see comparisons with heterosexual fathers (primary), heterosexual mothers (secondary), and homosexual mothers (both primary and secondary), but I realize this is probably beyond the scope of a single paper (http://news.yahoo.com/gay-dads-brains-show-activity-akin-both-parents-194429293.html).
“If you win the NCAA championship, you come to the White House. Well, if you’re a young person and you’ve produced the best experiment or design, the best hardware or software, you ought to be recognized for that achievement, too.” – President Obama about the white house science fair.