Neuroscience

Autism is a complex brain disorder that impairs social, communications and behavioral development.  It is often characterized by extreme behavior.   A new study by University of Utah School of Medicine researchers and conducted with Utah children says kids  who are firstborn or breech or whose mothers are 35 or older when giving birth are at significantly greater risk for developing an autism spectrum disorder.

Firstborn?   Those are  50% of all kids in America.   

In the April 27, 2009,issue of  Pediatrics, the researchers say that:

Women who give birth at 35 or older are 1.7 times more likely to have a child with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), compared with women between the ages of 20-34;
Most people are expert readers, but it is something of an enigma how our brain achieved expertise in such a recent cultural invention which requires a cognitive interface between vision and language.

The first alphabetic scripts are thought to have been invented only around four to five thousand years ago so it is unlikely that enough time has elapsed to allow the evolution of specialized parts of the brain for reading. 

While neuroimaging techniques have made some progress in understanding the neural underpinning of this essentially cultural skill, the exact unfolding of brain activity has remained elusive. 
Scientists have studied gamma oscillations, high-frequency brain waves, for over 50 years in the belief that they are crucial to understanding consciousness, attention, learning and memory. Now researchers have found a way to induce these waves by shining laser light directly onto the brains of mice.

The work takes advantage of a newly developed technology known as optogenetics, which combines genetic engineering with light to manipulate the activity of individual nerve cells. The research helps explain how the brain produces gamma waves and provides new evidence of the role they play in regulating brain functions — insights that could someday lead to new treatments for a range of brain-related disorders.

Since you are all inquisitive scientists, it is not a big surprise that sex is  a popular topic of study in the real world.  I attended a talk by Mary Roach, author of  “Bonk: The Curious Coupling Of Science And Sex” , at UC Davis on Monday.  Aside from the series of thank-yous provided by the introducer that seemed more appropriate for an Academy Award than an author of a pop science book on sex, it got right to the meat and potatoes. 

This guy is the poster child for computer nerd with no social life. Not that I'm making fun - my social life is pretty much nil.

I'm also disturbed that technology moves this fast. I still haven't bought into this twitter thing - I don't tweet or tweetle or twit or whatever, and this guy has already stepped it up to the next level. Thanks, Adam Wilson, for making me feel like an unaccomplished lazy slug.

Adam Wilson, a biomedical engineering graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has figured out how to "tweet" using just the power of his brain. His method uses the Brain Computer Interface, or BCI, software program.

Wilson tells NPR's Michele Norris he got the idea from Roger Ebert's blog in March.

 Deteriorating screws in bridges, fish that listen in the dark, medical devices that use sound to treat disease, the detected comeback of a long-gone whale, the sound of hyenas, cheese, and bagpipes, and what evolution can teach us about cowardice.

These are just a few of the topics that will be covered at the 157th meeting of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), which convenes from May 18-22 at the Hilton Portland&Executive Tower in Portland, Oregon. There, acoustical scientists and engineers will present more than 1,000 talks and posters related to acoustics, a cross-section of diverse disciplines devoted to architecture, underwater research, psychology, physics, animal bioacoustics, medicine, music, noise control, and speech.



Every brain has a soundtrack. Its tempo and tone will vary, depending on mood, frame of mind, and other features of the brain itself. When that soundtrack is recorded and played back -- to an emergency responder, or a firefighter -- it may sharpen their reflexes during a crisis, and calm their nerves afterward.
Utah and Texas researchers have learned how quiet sounds are magnified by bundles of tiny, hair-like tubes atop “hair cells” in the ear: when the tubes dance back and forth, they act as “flexoelectric motors” that amplify sound mechanically.

“We are reporting discovery of a new nanoscale motor in the ear,” says Richard Rabbitt, the study’s principal author and a professor and chair of bioengineering at the University of Utah College of Engineering. “The ear has a mechanical amplifier in it that uses electrical power to do mechanical amplification.”
When we emerge from a supermarket laden down with bags and faced with a sea of vehicles, how do we remember where we've parked our car and translate the memory into the correct action to get back there? A paper in PLoS Biology identifies the specific parts of the brain responsible for solving this everyday problem, which could have implications for understanding the functional significance of a prominent brain abnormality observed in neuropsychiatric diseases such as schizophrenia. 
A collaboration between more than 70 researchers across the globe has uncovered nine new genes on the X chromosome that, when knocked-out, lead to learning disabilities. The international team studied almost all X chromosome genes in 208 families with learning disabilities - the largest screen of this type ever reported.