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Tue, 02 Jun 2020
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Magic Wand

Those raised as eldest seen having edge. Researchers find an impact on IQ

Is big sister always telling you what's best? Does big brother seem to know it all?

Instead of stewing in resentment, maybe you should start listening when they dispense smart-alecky advice.

Turns out, they really are brighter than you, by and large.

A large study by Norwegian scientists appearing in today's edition of Science, the weekly academic journal published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, concludes that a child raised as the eldest has a higher intelligence quotient, on average, than younger siblings.

The difference is just a couple of IQ points -- not exactly the gap between Albert Einstein and Homer Simpson.

Magic Wand

Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain

Why does putting our feelings into words - talking with a therapist or friend, writing in a journal - help us to feel better" A new brain imaging study by UCLA psychologists reveals why verbalizing our feelings makes our sadness, anger and pain less intense.

Another study, with the same participants and three of the same members of the research team, combines modern neuroscience with ancient Buddhist teachings to provide the first neural evidence for why "mindfulness" - the ability to live in the present moment, without distraction - seems to produce a variety of health benefits.

When people see a photograph of an angry or fearful face, they have increased activity in a region of the brain called the amygdala, which serves as an alarm to activate a cascade of biological systems to protect the body in times of danger. Scientists see a robust amygdala response even when they show such emotional photographs subliminally, so fast a person can't even see them.

But does seeing an angry face and simply calling it an angry face change our brain response" The answer is yes, according to Matthew D. Lieberman, UCLA associate professor of psychology and a founder of social cognitive neuroscience.

"When you attach the word 'angry,' you see a decreased response in the amygdala," said Lieberman, lead author of the study, which appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.

Clock

Ancient retrovirus sheds light on modern pandemic

Human resistance to a retrovirus that infected chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates 4 million years ago ironically may be at least partially responsible for the susceptibility of humans to HIV infection today.

These findings, reported by a team of researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the June 22 issue of Science, provide a better understanding of this modern pandemic infection through the study of an ancient virus called Pan troglodytes endogenous retrovirus, or PtERV1.

"This ancient virus is a battle that humans have already won. Humans are not susceptible to it and have probably been resistant throughout millennia," said senior author Michael Emerman, Ph.D., a member of the Human Biology and Basic Sciences divisions at the Hutchinson Center. "However, we found that during primate evolution, this innate immunity to one virus may have made us more vulnerable to HIV."

Evidence of human immunity to this ancient retrovirus first emerged with the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome. "When the chimp genome was sequenced, a team of scientists at the University of Washington led by Evan Eichler found the largest difference overall between the chimp and human genomes was the presence or absence of PtERV1," Emerman said. "Chimps have 130 copies of PtERV1 and humans have none."

It is believed that retroviruses have been entering the genome for many millions of years, and so humans share many retroviral DNA fragments with their primate cousins. Such vestiges of primitive infection, rendered inactive by eons of genetic mutation, make up about 8 percent of the human genome.

Health

Canada's first ambulance for obese patients on call

Obese patients in Calgary, Alberta, are the first in Canada to have a new ambulance on call specially modified to move them in a dignified and safe way while protecting paramedics from injury.

The so-called "bariatric response team" is called in when the patient weighs between 400 pounds (181 kilograms) and 1,000 pounds (453 kg).

"There's a high risk of injury for our staff... obviously, the larger the patient, the higher the probability is," Paul Lapointe, public education officer at Calgary's emergency medical services, said on Thursday.

Magnify

Why Americans Keep Getting Fatter

A long-running contradiction in U.S. farm policy is fattening the waistlines of Americans and the profits of agribusiness at the same time. For the 30 years that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been issuing dietary guidelines, there has been a stark inconsistency between the federal government's advice and its food funding.

True, the USDA has been doing more, over time, to promote health through dietary guidelines, food pyramids and other nutrition programs. And yet more than $20 billion yearly -- more than one-fifth its budget -- is sunk into a farm bill that supports many of the foods its recommendations warn against. At the same time, the department virtually ignores incentives to produce, promote and consume some of the healthiest foods: fruits and vegetables.

Health

Bird flu fears reignited, reexamining another strain

While the threat of a bird flu pandemic continues to hang over the world, authorities in the United Kingdom now believe a second strain of avian flu -- previously considered of little human risk -- does indeed pose a real danger to people.

Magic Wand

Blind people are 'serial memory' whizzes

Compared to people with normal vision, those who were blind at birth tend to have excellent memories. Now, a new study reported online on June 21st in the journal Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press, shows that blind individuals are particular whizzes when it comes to remembering things in the right order.

The findings are a good example of the familiar adage that "practice makes perfect" and reveal that mental capabilities may be refined or adjusted in order to compensate for the lack of a sensory input, according to researchers Noa Raz and Ehud Zohary of Hebrew University.

"Our opinion is that the superior serial memory of the blind is most likely a result of practice," Zohary said. "In the absence of vision, the world is experienced as a sequence of events. Since the blind constantly use serial-memory strategies in everyday circumstances, they tend to develop superior skills."

For example, the blind tend to navigate the world by forming "route-like" sequential representations. Blind people also rely on serial-memory strategies to identify otherwise indistinguishable objects, such as different brands of yogurt that vary only in their labeling, the researchers noted. According to their own reports, in order to correctly choose a desired item, the blind typically place objects in a fashioned order and give them ordinal tags, such as "the 3rd item on the left." Thus, a memory for the order in which items are encountered may be especially important for blind people's ability to create mental pictures of a scene.

Health

Body absorbs 5lb of make-up chemicals a year

Women who use make-up on a daily basis are absorbing almost 5lb of chemicals a year into their bodies, it is claimed.

Many use more than 20 different beauty products a day striving to look their best while nine out of 10 apply make-up which is past its use by date.

Dependence on cosmetics and toiletries means that a cocktail of 4lb 6oz of chemicals a year is absorbed into the body through the skin.

Some synthetic compounds involved have been linked to side effects ranging from skin irritation to premature ageing and cancer.

Richard Bence, a biochemist who has spent three years researching conventional products, said: "We really need to start questioning the products we are putting on our skin and not just assume that the chemicals in them are safe.

Magic Wand

Blackcurrants are the berry best fruit for you

It may not be as fashionable as its more exotic cousins but the humble blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all. Research shows that the common or garden blackcurrant is more nutritious than other fruits, from home-grown apples and strawberries to tropical mangoes and bananas.

Blackcurrants also contain the highest levels of health-boosting antioxidants - natural compounds credited with the ability to stave off a range of illnesses from heart disease to cancer. Researcher Dr Derek Stewart said his findings, which come amid a growing appetite for exotic berries, colourful juices and other superfoods, prove the British blackcurrant is the healthiest fruit of all.

Dr Stewart, who came to his conclusion after comparing the properties of 20 popular fruits, said: "The motivation for the research came from the huge publicity surrounding superfoods, coupled with lack of consumer knowledge. "We wanted to find out which fruit came out on top.

"The combined beneficial composition and impact in health-related studies mean that blackcurrants can claim to be the number one superfruit." Dr Stewart reached his conclusions by analysing the findings of dozens of research papers published by other scientists. Lack of published data on fruits which have only recently become popular, such as raisin-sized goji berries, means they could not be included in the analysis.

Bizarro Earth

Human bite wounds 12 times more common in men

Men are 12 times more likely than women to sustain severe human bite injuries for which surgery may be necessary, according to a study published in the July issue of the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Injuries are most likely to occur during brawls at weekends or public holidays and in most cases alcohol is involved.

The researchers reviewed the 92 patients requiring assessment for human bite wounds by the plastic surgery service at St James's Hospital Dublin, Ireland, between January 2003 and December 2005. Eight five of them (92%) were men and the 92 patients had a total of 96 bites.

Alcohol was implicated in 86% of the injuries and illicit drugs in 12%. Seventy per cent of incidents resulting in a bite wound had occurred during the weekend or on a public holiday.