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Sociologist Says This Month's Family Murder-Suicides Only 'the Tip of the Iceberg'

A family sociologist at the University at Buffalo says this month's murder-suicides involving a family of four in Ohio and a family of five in California may be "just the tip of the iceberg."

Sampson Blair, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology at UB, says, "Family murder-suicide is still relatively uncommon, but I expect an increase in such incidents over the next few years because economic strain on families provokes depression and desperation."

He adds that family researchers have long pointed to how financial and occupational stressors can negatively impact the quality of family relationships.

Heart

Chemist Sheds Light on Health Benefits of Garlic

A Queen's-led team has discovered the reason why garlic is so good for us.

Researchers have widely believed that the organic compound, allicin - which gives garlic its aroma and flavour - acts as the world's most powerful antioxidant. But until now it hasn't been clear how allicin works, or how it stacks up compared to more common antioxidants such as Vitamin E and coenzyme Q10, which stop the damaging effects of radicals.

"We didn't understand how garlic could contain such an efficient antioxidant, since it didn't have a substantial amount of the types of compounds usually responsible for high antioxidant activity in plants, such as the flavanoids found in green tea or grapes," says Chemistry professor Derek Pratt, who led the study. "If allicin was indeed responsible for this activity in garlic, we wanted to find out how it worked."

Health

The pathologist challenging shaken baby syndrome

© TwentyTwenty
Irene Scheimberg says she is prepared to challenge injustice whenever it arises.

In 1976 Irene Scheimberg fled Argentina when the military regime began arresting and killing her friends, experiences that have made her extra sensitive to injustice. Today, as a paediatric pathologist in the UK, she is prepared to challenge it whenever it arises, whether it be shaken baby syndrome or the controversy over retained organs at Liverpool's Alder Hey Children's hospital, she tells Sue Armstrong

What kind of family did you grow up in?

My grandfather was a civil rights lawyer and both my parents are doctors. It was a family in which you had to do something for society.

But you had to leave Argentina?

In 1976 there was a coup d'état and a military dictatorship took over. It was the most brutal in Argentina's long history of military dictatorships. Lots of my friends were "disappearing" and my ex-boyfriend Carlos - a very recent ex and somebody I really loved - disappeared. His body was found in the river with marks around the wrists and ankles. I went to bury him, and 10 days later I was on a plane to Spain. The police or army had been to check on his friends and so I had to leave.

Magnify

More evidence pre-term birth tied to autism

A U.S. study looking at children born more than three months prematurely provided fresh evidence on Thursday linking pre-term birth and autism.

These children were about two to three times as likely to show signs of autism at age 2 as measured in a standard screening tool compared to other children, the researchers wrote in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Sherlock

Too Much TV Linked to Future Fast-Food Intake

High-school kids who watch too much TV are likely to have bad eating habits five years in the future. Research published in BioMed Central's open access International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity followed almost 2000 high- and middle-school children and found that TV viewing times predict a poor diet in the future.

Dr Daheia Barr-Anderson worked with a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota to investigate the relationship between television and diet. She said, "To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the association between television viewing and diet over the transition from adolescence into young adulthood. We've shown that TV viewing during adolescence predicts poorer dietary intake patterns five years later".

Frog

Babies Know: A Little Dirt Is Good for You

Ask mothers why babies are constantly picking things up from the floor or ground and putting them in their mouths, and chances are they'll say that it's instinctive - that that's how babies explore the world. But why the mouth, when sight, hearing, touch and even scent are far better at identifying things?

When my young sons were exploring the streets of Brooklyn, I couldn't help but wonder how good crushed rock or dried dog droppings could taste when delicious mashed potatoes were routinely rejected.

Since all instinctive behaviors have an evolutionary advantage or they would not have been retained for millions of years, chances are that this one too has helped us survive as a species. And, indeed, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you.

Magnify

Scientists See the Light: How Vision Sends its Message to the Brain

Scientists have known for more than 200 years that vision begins with a series of chemical reactions when light strikes the retina, but the specific chemical processes have largely been a mystery. A team of researchers from the United States and Switzerland, have she new light on this process by "capturing" this chemical communication for future study. This research, published in the February 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal , may lead to the development of new treatments for some forms of blindness and vision disorders.

At the center of the discovery is the signaling of rhodopsin to transducin. Rhodopsin is a pigment in the eye that helps detect light. Transducin is a protein (sometimes called "GPCR") which ultimately signals the brain that light is present. The researchers were able to "freeze frame" the chemical communication between rhodopsin and transducin to study how this takes place and what goes wrong at the molecular level in certain disorders.

Alarm Clock

How Your Body Clock Avoids Hitting the Snooze Button

Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered a new part of the mechanism which allows our body clocks to reset themselves on a molecular level.

Circadian clocks regulate the daily fluctuations of many physiological and behavioral aspects in life, and are synchronized with our surrounding environment via light or temperature cycles. Natural changes in the length of the day mean that an animal's circadian clock often has to reset itself on a molecular level, to avoid getting out of sync with the changing calendar.

Professor Ralf Stanewsky and his team from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences study the circadian clocks of Drosophila, a type of fruit fly. Writing in the journal Current Biology, they report that the resetting process is governed by three factors, called Cryptochrome, Jetlag and Timeless.

Health

Video game conditioning spills over into real life

Image
© Paul Fletcher
The rival team's logo in a cycling video game has been found to be off-putting to players days later.

Whether it's World of Warcraft, Guitar Hero or Mario Kart, lessons learned in video games may transcend computers, PlayStations and Wiis. New research suggests that virtual worlds sway real-life choices.

Volunteers who played a simple cycling game learned to favour one team's jersey and avoid another's. Days later, most subjects subconsciously avoided the same jersey in a real-world test.

As video games become more immersive and realistic, all involved ought to realise the potential, says Paul Fletcher, a neuroscientist at Cambridge University, UK, who led the study

"I don't think this is evidence that video games are bad," says Fletcher, a former gamer. "We just need to be aware that associations formed within the game transfer to the real world - for good or bad."

Sherlock

Language Performance and Differences in Brain Activity Possibly Affected by Sex

In a new fMRI study conducted in the Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Clinical Research Laboratory (Montpellier I University, France) and published by Elsevier in the February 2009 issue of Cortex, researchers found differences among male and female groups on activation strength linked to verbal fluency (words generation).

Results from previous fMRI studies identifying the neural basis of sex differences in language production are still in debate. Particularly, the question of group differences in verbal abilities which might account for neurocognitive differences elicited between men and women, still remain unresolved. Although the cerebral regions involved are identical for both men and women, men show greater activation than women, irrespective of performance levels in classical language regions (frontal, temporal and occipital lobes, and cerebellum).

From a representative sample of 331 French speakers, students showing a sex difference for a verbal fluency task, with women scoring higher than men as reported in the literature, four groups of 11 healthy right handed subjects were selected a priori. Selection was based on sex and contrasted scores in a fluency task i.e. high versus low verbal fluency scores. The 44 subjects were submitted to a covert verbal fluency fMRI protocol.