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Submission + - What a Trip: First Evidence for Higher State of Consciousness Found (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: Researchers observe a sustained increase in neural signal diversity in people under the influence of psychedelics.

Scientific evidence of a ‘higher’ state of consciousness has been found in a study led by the University of Sussex.

Neuroscientists observed a sustained increase in neural signal diversity – a measure of the complexity of brain activity – of people under the influence of psychedelic drugs, compared with when they were in a normal waking state.

The diversity of brain signals provides a mathematical index of the level of consciousness. For example, people who are awake have been shown to have more diverse neural activity using this scale than those who are asleep.

This, however, is the first study to show brain-signal diversity that is higher than baseline, that is higher than in someone who is simply ‘awake and aware’. Previous studies have tended to focus on lowered states of consciousness, such as sleep, anaesthesia, or the so-called ‘vegetative’ state.

Submission + - Brain Aging Gene Discovered (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: Genetic variant accelerates normal brain aging in older people by up to 12 years.

Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have discovered a common genetic variant that greatly impacts normal brain aging, starting at around age 65, and may modify the risk for neurodegenerative diseases. The findings could point toward a novel biomarker for the evaluation of anti-aging interventions and highlight potential new targets for the prevention or treatment of age-associated brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Submission + - Autism Risk Linked to Herpes Infection During Pregnancy (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: Women with signs of active genital herpes had twice the odds of giving birth to offspring with autism spectrum disorder.

Women actively infected with genital herpes during early pregnancy had twice the odds of giving birth to a child later diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to a study by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

The study is the first to provide immunological evidence on the role of gestational infection in autism, reporting an association between maternal anti-herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) antibodies and risk for ASD in offspring. Results appear in mSphere, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.

Submission + - More Serotonin, Less Motivation? It Depends on the Circumstances (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: A new study in mice shows that increasing serotonin, one of the major mediators of brain communication, affects motivation – but only in certain circumstances. Furthermore, the study revealed that the short and long term effects of increased serotonin levels are opposed – a completely unforeseen property of this neurotransmitter’s functional system.

A surprising behavioral effect, discovered in mice by neuroscientists at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown (CCU), in Lisbon, Portugal, strongly suggests that serotonin is involved in a biological mechanism which affects the animals’ motivation. The study has now been published in the online open access journal eLife.

Serotonin, one of the chemical “messengers”, or neurotransmitters, in the brain, is used by neurons to communicate with each other. It plays an important role in the regulation of sleep, movement and other behaviors which are essential for animal survival. But for motivation in particular, it was unclear whether serotonin was involved.

Submission + - Study Shows Youth Flag Football May Not be Safer than Tackle (uichildrens.org)

baalcat writes: University of Iowa Health Care researchers report that the results of a study of injury rates in youth football leagues did not show that flag football is safer than tackle football.

Concerns about the rate of concussions among athletes and the long term effects of repeated head injuries lead to discussion that children under the age of 12 should not participate in contact sports such as tackle football.

The UI researchers studied three large youth football leagues with almost 3,800 participants. The research team compared the number of injuries, severe injuries, and concussions in players competing on flag football teams and tackle football squads.

The results of the study, published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, showed that injuries were more likely to occur in youth flag football than in youth tackle football. There was no significant difference in the number of severe injuries and concussions between the leagues.

Submission + - Astronomers observe black hole producing cold, star-making fuel from hot plasma (mit.edu)

baalcat writes: The Phoenix cluster is an enormous accumulation of about 1,000 galaxies, located 5.7 billion light years from Earth. At its center lies a massive galaxy, which appears to be spitting out stars at a rate of about 1,000 per year. Most other galaxies in the universe are far less productive, squeaking out just a few stars each year, and scientists have wondered what has fueled the Phoenix cluster’s extreme stellar output.

Now scientists from MIT, the University of Cambridge, and elsewhere may have an answer. In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal, the team reports observing jets of hot, 10-million-degree gas blasting out from the central galaxy’s black hole and blowing large bubbles out into the surrounding plasma.

Submission + - Naughty or Nice? Personality Traits Linked to Differences in Brain Structure (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: From article:

Our personality may be shaped by how our brain works, but in fact the shape of our brain can itself provide surprising clues about how we behave – and our risk of developing mental health disorders – suggests a study published today.

According to psychologists, the extraordinary variety of human personality can be broken down into the so-called ‘Big Five’ personality traits, namely neuroticism (how moody a person is), extraversion (how enthusiastic a person is), openness (how open-minded a person is), agreeableness (a measure of altruism), and conscientiousness (a measure of self-control).

In a study published today in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, an international team of researchers from the UK, US, and Italy have analysed a brain imaging dataset from over 500 individuals that has been made publicly available by the Human Connectome Project, a major US initiative funded by the National Institutes of Health. In particular, the researchers looked at differences in the brain cortical anatomy (the structure of the outer layer of the brain) as indexed by three measures – the thickness, area, and amount of folding in the cortex – and how these measures related to the Big Five personality traits.

Submission + - Antarctic Bottom Waters Freshening at Unexpected Rate (whoi.edu)

baalcat writes: Shift could disturb ocean circulation and hasten sea level rise, researchers say.

In the cold depths along the sea floor, Antarctic Bottom Waters are part of a global circulatory system, supplying oxygen-, carbon- and nutrient-rich waters to the world’s oceans. Over the last decade, scientists have been monitoring changes in these waters. But a new study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) suggests these changes are themselves shifting in unexpected ways, with potentially significant consequences for the ocean and climate.

In a paper published January 25 in Science Advances, a team led by WHOI oceanographers Viviane Menezes and Alison Macdonald report that Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) has freshened at a surprising rate between 2007 and 2016—a shift that could alter ocean circulation and ultimately contribute to rising sea levels.

“If you change the circulation, you change everything in the ocean,” said Menezes, a WHOI postdoctoral investigator and the study’s lead author. Ocean circulation drives the movement of warm and cold waters around the world, so it is essential to storing and regulating heat and plays a key role in Earth’s temperature and climate. “But we don’t have the whole story yet. We have some new pieces, but we don’t have the entire puzzle.”

The puzzle itself isn’t new: past studies suggest that AABW has been undergoing significant changes for decades. Since the 1990s, an international program of repeat surveys has periodically sampled certain ocean basins around the world to track the circulation and conditions at these spots over time. Along one string of sites, or “stations,” that stretches from Antarctica to the southern Indian Ocean, researchers have tracked the conditions of AABW—a layer of profoundly cold water less than 0C (it stays liquid because of its salt content, or salinity) that moves through the abyssal ocean, mixing with warmer waters as it circulates around the globe in the Southern Ocean and northward into all three of the major ocean basins.

Submission + - Want to look competent? Don't smile too much in online marketing ads, study says (ku.edu)

baalcat writes: If you're seeking investments through online marketing or crowd-funding websites, be sure to smile in your profile photo or your post. But maybe not too big.

New research that includes a University of Kansas researcher has found that the level of smile intensity in marketing photos influences how consumers perceive the marketer's competence and warmth, which can lead to different results depending on the context.

Submission + - Psychological 'vaccine' could help immunise public against 'fake news' on climat (cam.ac.uk)

baalcat writes: New research finds that misinformation on climate change can psychologically cancel out the influence of accurate statements. However, if legitimate facts are delivered with an “inoculation” – a warning dose of misinformation – some of the positive influence is preserved.

In medicine, vaccinating against a virus involves exposing a body to a weakened version of the threat, enough to build a tolerance.

Social psychologists believe that a similar logic can be applied to help “inoculate” the public against misinformation, including the damaging influence of ‘fake news’ websites propagating myths about climate change.

A new study compared reactions to a well-known climate change fact with those to a popular misinformation campaign. When presented consecutively, the false material completely cancelled out the accurate statement in people’s minds – opinions ended up back where they started.

Researchers then added a small dose of misinformation to delivery of the climate change fact, by briefly introducing people to distortion tactics used by certain groups. This “inoculation” helped shift and hold opinions closer to the truth, despite the follow-up exposure to ‘fake news’.

The study on US attitudes found the inoculation technique shifted the climate change opinions of Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike.

Submission + - How the Human Brain Decides What Is Important and What's Not (neurosciencenews.com)

baalcat writes: A new study in Neuroscience News sheds light on how we learn to pay attention in order to make the most of our life experiences.

"The Wizard of Oz told Dorothy to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” in an effort to distract her, but a new Princeton University study sheds light on how people learn and make decisions in real-world situations.

The findings could eventually contribute to improved teaching and learning and the treatment of mental and addiction disorders in which people’s perspectives are dysfunctional or fractured."

Submission + - A tale of two pulsars' tails: Plumes offer geometry lessons to astronomers (psu.edu)

baalcat writes: *From article* Like cosmic lighthouses sweeping the universe with bursts of energy, pulsars have fascinated and baffled astronomers since they were first discovered 50 years ago. In two studies, international teams of astronomers suggest that recent images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory of two pulsars — Geminga and B0355+54 — may help shine a light on the distinctive emission signatures of pulsars, as well as their often perplexing geometry.

Pulsars are a type of neutron star that are born in supernova explosions when massive stars collapse. Discovered initially by lighthouse-like beams of radio emission, more recent research has found that energetic pulsars also produce beams of high energy gamma rays.

Interestingly, the beams rarely match up, said Bettina Posselt, senior research associate in astronomy and astrophysics, Penn State. The shapes of observed radio and gamma-ray pulses are often quite different and some of the objects show only one type of pulse or the other. These differences have generated debate about the pulsar model.

Submission + - Google Maps Starts Showing Parking Availability For Some Users (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Back in August, Cody found strings in his teardown of Google Maps v9.34 beta that hinted at an upcoming display of parking difficulty. The option may have crept up for some users since then, but now we have our first glance into how the feature will work since it has started showing up for more users on Maps v9.44 beta. Parking availability will be shown as a small rounded P icon next to your route duration estimate when you search for driving directions, followed by more descriptive text. As Cody's teardown showed, there are three levels to look for: Limited, Medium, and Easy. Limited parking will get the P icon to turn red. Once you start driving toward your destination, you can expand the directions to get a more descriptive explanation of the parking situation. Our tipster tells us that according to his tests, parking availability shows up for public destinations like malls and airports and various attractions. The option doesn't seem to be live for everyone on Maps v9.44 beta (APK Mirror link), so you may need to be patient to see it on your phone.

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