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Thu, 15 Apr 2021
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New insights into the neural basis of anxiety

Researchers identify a neural circuit that makes mice perceive ambiguous situations as threatening

People who suffer from anxiety tend to interpret ambiguous situations, situations that could potentially be dangerous but not necessarily so, as threatening. Researchers from the Mouse Biology Unit of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Italy have now uncovered the neural basis for such anxiety behaviour in mice. In the current issue of Nature Neuroscience they report that a receptor for the messenger serotonin and a neural circuit involving a brain region called the hippocampus play crucial roles in mediating fear responses in ambiguous situations.

A mouse that has learned that a certain cue, for example a tone, is always followed by an electrical shock comes to associate the two and freezes with fear whenever it hears the tone even if the shock is not delivered. But in real life the situation is not always so clear; a stimulus will only sometimes be followed by a threat while other times nothing might happen. Normal mice show less fear towards such ambiguous cues than to clearly threatening stimuli.

Magic Wand

Parrots, war vets team up in L.A. healing program

A dog may be a man's best friend. But for some traumatized war veterans, parrots are proving even more of a help.

Rescued and abused parrots are helping the veterans turn their lives around in a unique program launched officially on Thursday at a Los Angeles Veterans Affairs facility.

The parrots -- which sometimes pluck their own feathers when stressed out after years in cramped cages or abandoned by owners -- are thriving too in what organizers say is an exercise in mutual healing.

"Both the veterans and the parrots have suffered some kind of traumatic stress. Both are learning to build compassion and empathy together," said Lorin Lindner, the psychologist behind the Serenity Park Sanctuary at the V.A.'s headquarters in the Westwood section of Los Angeles.

Health

628 sickened by recalled peanut butter

The number of people sickened since August by peanut butter tainted with salmonella has grown by more than 200, according to a new federal report. The outbreak, first reported in February, now includes 628 cases in 47 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

X

Russia bans specimen exports

Russia has banned the export of medical specimens after the country's spy agency allegedly uncovered a Western plot to manufacture a biological weapon that would make Russians sterile.

In a decree that appeared to reflect the Russian state's growing suspicion of all things Western, the Federal Customs Service forbade the shipment of all human blood, hair, DNA and bone marrow out of the country.

While officials gave no formal explanation for the ban, Russia's most respected broadsheet suggested that the customs service had been ordered to act after the Federal Security Service, the KGB's successor, handed an alarming report to President Vladimir Putin earlier this month.

Attention

DNA Research With Terror Risk: Scientists Report Altering Bacterium To Make It More Infectious

Researchers in Germany reported Thursday that they had altered the DNA of a disease-causing bacterium so that it can infect a species it cannot normally sicken.

Experts called the development a double-edged advance. Although the research could deepen scientists' understanding of human diseases, it also could speed development of novel bioterror agents.

The change in infectiousness - the first of its kind ever engineered from scratch - poses no direct threat to human health, scientists said, because the microbe already causes a human disease - the food-borne illness called listeriosis.

The change allows that microbe to sicken mice, a species that it has no natural capacity to infect.

Question

Is that just a mole... or early signs of skin cancer? Looking for - and how to spot - signs of trouble

We all have at least some moles on our skin. But many of us might not know which moles are normal, and which could be signs of trouble. This year, more than one million Americans will get some form of skin cancer,* and in many of those cases, moles could have served as early warning signs.

Before Amber Holly lets her kids go out and play, they slather on a handful of sunscreen. As a kid, Amber never did. Now, she's had 28 moles removed from her skin - six on her back proved to be cancerous.

"I should have had them taken off before, but I just didn't think anything of it. I can't see them if they're changing colors because they were on my back," says Holly.

Recycle

Vacuum Cleaning Largely Ineffective At Removing Dust Mite Allergen

This is particularly true of worn carpets where the study results indicate vacuum cleaning may in fact change the distribution of dust mite allergen within the carpet, rather than removing allergen from all depths equally.

Woolcock Researcher Jason Sercombe said that given that carpets are a major reservoir of dust mite allergen and vacuum cleaning is the most common method of allergen control, the results are particularly relevant to professionals interested in limiting people's exposure to common allergens.

"The results also help to explain why many trials aimed at reducing people's exposure to indoor allergens - some even going so far as to install new furniture - have had limited success.

Sheeple

FDA Says Avoid Toothpaste Made in China

WASHINGTON - The government warned consumers on Friday to avoid using toothpaste made in China because it may contain a poisonous chemical used in antifreeze. Out of caution, the Food and Drug Administration said, people should throw away toothpaste with labeling that says it was made in China. The FDA is concerned that these products may contain diethylene glycol.

Magnify

Lost documents shed light on Black Death

For centuries, rats and fleas have been fingered as the culprits responsible for the Black Death, the medieval plague that killed as many as two thirds of Europe's population.

But historians studying 14th-century court records from Dorset believe they may have uncovered evidence that exonerates them. The parchment records, contained in a recently-discovered archive, reveal that an estimated 50 per cent of the 2,000 people living in Gillingham died within four months of the Black Death reaching the town in October 1348.

Red Flag

Thinking straight while seeing red?

Anger is that powerful internal force that blows out the light of reason. - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Anger is appropriately blamed for flawed thinking since it tends to alter perception of risk, increase prejudice, and trigger aggression. But is anger always destructive" Three recent experiments published in the latest issue of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, an official publication of The Society for Personality and Social Psychology suggest it's not. Anger can actually prompt more careful and rational analysis of another person's reasoning.