A drug commonly used to treat severe acne can lead to depressive behaviour in mice, according to research published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

Since the drug’s introduction in the early 1980s there have been controversial reports of depression and suicidal behaviour that may have occurred in some people taking Roaccutane (Accutane in the US).

This has led to the drug’s manufacturers, Roche, including a warning in the product information that taking the medication may cause depression, psychosis and suicidal behaviour.

As a younger man, I was a big fan of Greenpeace.

As time went on, I thought they lost their focus by branching out from protesting nuclear weapons to whaling and trees and basically hanging out a shingle that said, "If you send us money, we will protest for you."

I watched them change from instilling their people with scientific literacy to educating their people on political activism. Then I watched them turn on me because I was a scientist who didn't much like exaggerated evidence in the name of fundraising and because I was a sportsman and because I was a businessman.

I've always believed that sportsmen - hunters, hikers, mountain climbers - are natural allies of the environmental movement.

Electrical deep brain stimulation can dramatically alleviate depression that is resistant to other treatments, researchers have found in an initial study on six patients. The finding is important, they said, because up to 20 percent of patients with depression fail to respond to standard treatments--requiring combinations of antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive treatment (ECT) that still may fail. The number of resistant depression patients can be large, since depression is the leading source of disability in adults under age 50 in North America.

Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Toronto Hospital have discovered a biological basis for the phantom sensations that are frequently experienced on the missing limbs of amputees. The findings of the study are published in the Jan. 22 issue of Nature.

The researchers found that the neurons in the brain that used to represent sensation in the lost limb were still functional but now driven by the stimulation of other body parts, usually the part of the body closest to the amputated limb. The investigators also found that in patients experiencing phantom pain, the sensation can be recreated by stimulating within the brain. Phantom sensations could not be elicited, however, in amputees without a history of phantom sensations.

A study of follow-up care for patients with unsatisfactory outcomes from deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery for movement disorders offers insights into reasons for problems and proposes strategies for improved outcomes. The study is posted online today and will appear in the August print issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

According to background information in the article, since the Food and Drug Administration approved deep brain stimulation for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, essential tremor and dystonia (uncontrolled muscle movement), there has been a surge in the number of centers offering this surgical procedure, which involves implanting a device to deliver mild electrical stimulation to block the brain signals that cause tremor. There is currently no consensus regarding appropriate screening procedures, necessary training of individuals providing the therapy, the need for an interdisciplinary team, or guidelines for the management of complications, the authors report.

Deep brain stimulation via electrodes implanted on both sides of the brain markedly improves the motor skills of patients with advanced Parkinson's Disease, says a new long-term study by researchers at the University of Toronto and Toronto Western Hospital.

"We saw a pronounced decrease in the motor scores associated with Parkinson's Disease - the tremors, stiffness and slowness - and this benefit was persistent through the course of the long-term followup," says Dr. Anthony Lang, professor in U of T's division of neurology, the Jack Clark Chair in Parkinson's Disease Research at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases and director of the Movement Disorders Clinic at Toronto Western Hospital, University Health Network. He and his colleagues used the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) to evaluate both the features of the disease as well as the side-effects of medication. They found motor scores decreased an average of 48 per cent. "This is quite substantial when you compare it to other trials of therapy for Parkinson's Disease," he says.

John Conway says, "I’ve been looking for the Higgs boson for almost 20 years" which sounds like a long time if you are a young scientist but I have a watch missing for 35, so it isn't that impressive.

What is impressive his description of what happened when he thinks he found Higgs at CERN.

I thought the only "Quark" I would ever see was that TV show in the 1980s but sometimes scientific progress creeps and sometimes it leaps. We may be in for a leap.

Anyway, I can't do the article any justice here. Go there and read it for yourself and by the time you come back I will have something to complain about.

The secret to the ability of a molecule critical for cell division to throw off the protein yoke that restrains its activity is the yoke itself--a disorderly molecule that seems to have a mind of its own, say investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Innsbruck Medical University (Austria) and Max Planck Institute (Martinsried, Germany).

The researchers showed that the disorderly protein yoke, called p27, participates in its own destruction by swinging the end of its long arm up into a key side pocket of the cell division molecule called CDK2. After the end of p27 slips into the pocket, CDK2 marks p27 for destruction by tagging it with a molecule called phosphate.

The first scientific report into the causes and impact of Lusi, the Indonesian mud volcano, reveals that the 2006 eruption will continue to erupt and spew out between 7,000 and 150,000 cubic metres of mud a day for months, if not years to come, leaving at least 10 km2 around the volcano vent uninhabitable for years and over 11,000 people permanently displaced.

The paper by a Durham University-led team and published in the February issue of GSA Today1, reveals that the eruption was almost certainly manmade and caused by the drilling of a nearby exploratory borehole2 looking for gas, reinforcing the possible explanation in a UN report3 from July last year.


Image of a gryphon, which occur around the site of a mud volcano.