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Team accidentally finds key to DNA vaccination and genetic engineering
It might have been an accident, but like some lucky researchers accidents are a good thing. In this particular case, scientists have discovered a new way to manipulate how cells function, a finding that might help advance an experimental approach to improving public health: DNA vaccines, which could be more efficient, less expensive and easier […]

Gou, Y., Byun, H., Zook, A., B. Singh, G., Nash, A., Lozano, M. & Dudley, J. (2015). Retroviral vectors elevate coexpressed protein levels in trans through cap dependent translation through cap-dependent translation , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201420477. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1420477112

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A study of twins shows that autism is largely genetic
In the fight against misinformation about autism it seems science is starting to come out on top, finally. A new study hopes to add to the recent advancements made in the understanding of autism, which finds that a substantial genetic and moderate environmental influences were associated with risk of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and broader autism […]

Colvert, E., Tick, B., McEwen, F., Stewart, C., Curran, S., Woodhouse, E., Gillan, N., Hallett, V., Lietz, S., Garnett, T. & Ronald, A. (2015). Heritability of Autism Spectrum Disorder in a UK Population-Based Twin Sample, JAMA Psychiatry, DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.3028

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Ghost in the Machine: The Neuroscience of Consciousness
Some questions cannot be addressed by science.  Like parallel universes, the consciousness of others is not something that can be directly observed, measured, or experienced.  Rene Descartes famously said, “I think, therefore I am.“ a declaration that only knowledge of one’s own consciousness is absolute.  You assume that friends and neighbors have subjective, internal experiences … Continue reading →

Tononi G. & G. M. Edelman (1994). A measure for brain complexity: relating functional segregation and integration in the nervous system., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 91 (11) 5033-5037. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.91.11.5033

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Video Tip of the Week: Beacon, to locate genome variants of potential clinical significance
This week’s Video Tip of the Week follows on last week’s chatter about the Internet of DNA. As I mentioned then, the Beacon tool we touched on was going to get more coverage. So this week’s video is provided by the Beacon team, part of the larger Global Alliance for Genomics and Health project (GA4GH). […]

Nguyen N., Daniel R. Zerbino, Brian Raney, Dent Earl, Joel Armstrong, W. James Kent, David Haussler & Benedict Paten (2015). Building a Pan-Genome Reference for a Population, Journal of Computational Biology, 150107093755006. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/cmb.2014.0146

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Taking Care of your Pet Rabbit
Rabbits are the third most popular pet, but how should you look after them?A study by Nicola Rooney (University of Bristol) et al asked 1254 rabbit owners about how they housed, fed, played with and otherwise cared for their rabbit. The good news is that “many pet rabbits were found to be in good health, had compatible companions and were provided with enriched living areas.” But there were also many areas where things could be improved. The most common type of rabbit was a […]

Rooney NJ, Blackwell EJ, Mullan SM, Saunders R, Baker PE, Hill JM, Sealey CE, Turner MJ & Held SD (2014). The current state of welfare, housing and husbandry of the English pet rabbit population., BMC research notes, 7 942. PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25532711

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Looking Sideways In The Mirror
Biology Concepts – platyhelminthes, asymmetry, bilateral symmetry, evolution, cephalization, natural selection, fish, lepidophagyWhat is the largest living structure on Earth? No, it’s not the 2200 acre Armillaria ostoyae fungus in Oregon that we talked about previously. That is the largest single organism, but there is something bigger. The Great Barrier Reef houses more species of coral than any other place on earth, more than 600 species call the reef home. You see how […]

Takeuchi, Y., Hori, M. & Oda, Y. (2012). Lateralized Kinematics of Predation Behavior in a Lake Tanganyika Scale-Eating Cichlid Fish, PLoS ONE, 7 (1) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029272

Lee, H., Kusche, H. & Meyer, A. (2012). Handed Foraging Behavior in Scale-Eating Cichlid Fish: Its Potential Role in Shaping Morphological Asymmetry, PLoS ONE, 7 (9) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044670

Kusche, H., Lee, H. & Meyer, A. (2012). Mouth asymmetry in the textbook example of scale-eating cichlid fish is not a discrete dimorphism after all, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 279 (1748) 4715-4723. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2012.2082

Takahashi, T. & Hori, M. (2008). Evidence of disassortative mating in a Tanganyikan cichlid fish and its role in the maintenance of intrapopulation dimorphism, Biology Letters, 4 (5) 497-499. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0244

Hori, M., Ochi, H. & Kohda, M. (2007). Inheritance Pattern of Lateral Dimorphism in Two Cichlids (a Scale Eater, Perissodus microlepis, and an Herbivore, Neolamprologus moorii) in Lake Tanganyika, Zoological Science, 24 (5) 486-492. DOI: 10.2108/zsj.24.486

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Asthma and autism: a spanner in the works?
As happens so many times in autism research, spanners are thrown in works. Take the paper from Ousseny Zerbo and colleagues [1] who concluded that: "children with autism have elevated prevalence of specific immune-related comorbidities". Nothing surprising about that finding based on the volumes of other research which seemed to have reached similar conclusions (see here).Then the spanner: "asthma was diagnosed significantly less often" in autism cases compared with asymptomatic controls. […]

Zerbo O, Leong A, Barcellos L, Bernal P, Fireman B & Croen LA (2015). Immune Mediated Conditions in Autism Spectrum Disorders., Brain, behavior, and immunity, PMID: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25681541

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Early life stress may result in a serotonin deficit later
If you have experienced — or are experiencing — mood disorders like anxiety or depression, you know about SSRI’s and chances are they didn’t do much for you. In fact studies indicate that the majority of people with mood and anxiety disorders who receive Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) are not helped by these medications. Sadly, they […]

Coplan, J., Fulton, S., Reiner, W., Jackowski, A., Panthangi, V., Perera, T., Gorman, J., Huang, Y., Tang, C., Hof, P. & Kaffman, A. (2014). Elevated cerebrospinal fluid 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid in macaques following early life stress and inverse association with hippocampal volume: preliminary implications for serotonin-related function in mood and anxiety disorders, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8 DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00440

Coplan, J., Gopinath, S., Abdallah, C. & Berry, B. (2014). A Neurobiological Hypothesis of Treatment-Resistant Depression -- Mechanisms for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor Non-Efficacy, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8 DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00189

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Visual illusions foster open-mindedness
From sworn witness accounts of alien visitations, to deep-rooted trust in quack medical treatments, the human trait that psychologists call "naive realism" has a lot to answer for. This is people's instinctive feeling that they perceive the world how it is, encapsulated by the saying "seeing is believing." The truth, of course, is that our every perception is our brain's best guess, built not merely with the raw material of what's out in the world, but just as much with the bricks of […]

Hart, W., Tullett, A., Shreves, W. & Fetterman, Z. (2015). Fueling doubt and openness: Experiencing the unconscious, constructed nature of perception induces uncertainty and openness to change, Cognition, 137 1-8. DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2014.12.003

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Genetically-modified mice resistant to frostbite
The chilling spectre of winter has fallen upon those of us in the higher latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, and we humans are fortunate enough to have a number of ways of coping with the cold. But for creatures that don’t have electric heaters, hot chocolate and fleece onesies, there are many ways to survive…

Heisig, M., Mattessich, S., Rembisz, A., Acar, A., Shapiro, M., Booth, C., Neelakanta, G. & Fikrig, E. (2015). Frostbite Protection in Mice Expressing an Antifreeze Glycoprotein, PLOS ONE, 10 (2) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0116562

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