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#PrarieVole #PairBonding has been used as a model of such behavior in humans as strong similarity has been found between our species on a neural mechanism level. This work examines the role of alcohol consumption on partner social interactions, a highly relevant topic for humans. Fascinatingly, they find that alcohol significantly modulates partner preference in males but not in females. Specifically, males preferred spending time with a mating partner without access to alcohol, but showed no such preference with access to alcohol. #science #animalbehavior #pnas http://www.pnas.org/content/111/16/6052

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One of the most impressive features of biological systems is their ability to #SelfAssemble. A fertilized egg becomes a new individual without outside guidance. This is also a feature we'd love to hijack! This work shows some progress on the latter. These researchers engineered #EColi cells to make an "environmentally responsive biofilm-based electrical switch, [and] produce gold nanowires and nanorods". Using cells to produce small composite materials would pave the way for inexpensive synthesis of a host of technologies. #science #technology #nano #nature http://www.nature.com/nmat/journal/v13/n5/full/nmat3912.html

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"Tradionally-living" #Hazda #huntergatherers are a small subpopulation residing in #Tanzania, #Africa. Their diet is extremely different from ours. This study examined their gut #microbiome: the species inhabiting their #gastrointestinal tract. The authors found that they lack #bifidobacterium, a microorganism commonly included in #probiotic supplements which are currently quite popular in the USA. They also had high levels of #treponema, another bacterium associated with disease because it is commonly observed in those with #lupus and #periodontitis. These findings make clear that in understanding the associations between health and gut #flora, diet and lifestyle must be considered as well. There is no such thing as one single healthy profile of internal bacteria. #science #sciencemagazine http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2014/140415/ncomms4654/full/ncomms4654.html

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#Optogenetics + #RegenerativeMedicine = #AwesomeFuture! Optogenetics is a technique by which the electrical activity of cells can be controlled by light. This is useful because your brain and muscles use electrical activity to do stuff. Regenerative medicine is the restoration of function in damaged tissues by regrowing or restoring tissues which can integrate with the body's existing mode of operation. This work shows that it's possible to grow optogenetically modified motor neurons from stem cells, transplant them into a mouse leg with damaged motor neurons, and have them grow the right way and be functional in the right way! This is just a proof of concept, there are still many steps before this can be applied to humans with peripheral nerve damage, but the fact that the externally derived motor neurons grew properly and innervated the correct target muscles and that they activate their targets in a physiologically natural way is just astounding. #science #neuroscience #medicine #mindblown #sciencemagazine http://www.sciencemag.org/content/344/6179/94.abstract

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#BigData is everywhere these days. There are many fields that have more #data than they know what to do with! One potentially useful approach is to have a well designed #algorithm extract or distill meaningful information from vast many tidbits of data. Enter #KODAMA – KnOwledge Discovery by Accuracy MAximization. This #mathematical approach uses a #validation step (in the technical sense) to improve its output. As a demonstration of the power of their technique, the authors of this work apply KODAMA to genetic data, and to a database of #presidential speeches! Fascinatingly, their automated mining reveals a distinct shift in the #terminology used in presidential speeches during the presidency of #ronaldregan that has persisted to this day. What terms? Amongst others, use of the word #bless has increased significantly. #science #math #manifold #topology #pnas http://www.pnas.org/content/111/14/5117.full.pdf+html

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The effortless way that we humans tap along with a beat is convincing that there is something fundamentally important for us about rhythmic sound. #Darwin "speculated that our capacity for musical rhythm reflects basic aspects of brain function broadly shared among animals." Research doesn't seem to bear out this appealing idea. Though a limited number of species have been tested, #parrots seem to be the only other species that have a natural tendency to synchronize their movements to a beat. This work, by Ani Patel, author of the excellent book: "Music, Language, and the Brain" reviews current research on the topic of music and movement synchronization. His hypothesis, presented initially in his book and reiterated here, is that all vocal learners may possess the inborn "dance" instinct (to synchronize movements with an external rhythm). Another excellent text on this subject is "This is Your Brain on Music" by Dan Levitan. #science #neuroscience #openaccess #PLOSBiology http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001821

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The #heart is no longer considered the seat of our intellect, as it once was. However, the rhythms of its activity have a measurable effect on our perceptions, as shown in this work. Using #magnetoencephalography (#MEG) – a technique that measures #magnetic fields to infer brain activity levels – and behavior, these authors show that at a predictable time relative to the #Twave (a component of our #heartbeat) there is simultaneously a reliable increase in "hit rate" (detection of a stimulus event), and an increase in brain activity (in certain areas). It's unclear why or how the activity increase was brain-area specific. For example, a curt explanation would be that at some time after the heartbeat, he entire brain is better oxygenated, leading to better performance and higher activity during that epoch. This simple answer cannot explain the area-specificity of the activity increase observed however. A more interesting answer awaits… #science #neuroscience #brainbody #natureneuroscience http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v17/n4/pdf/nn.3671.pdf

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Thanks #Microsoft! The Allen Brain Mapping Project (not a band name, though it should be), is an ongoing effort funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen at the Allen Brain Science Institute (alleninstitute.org). This work, reported in the journal #Nature, is about mouse-brain connectivity. This is a #mesoscale #connectome: a catalogue of connections between brain areas at a "middle" spatial scale. This means it doesn't document individual neuron connections, but rather tracks of multiple neurons. Why is this important? It is essential to do science at many different levels. Knowing how small things work doesn't necessarily allow us to predict how they work one step up. This work will be an invaluable resource for systems #neuroscientists aiming to understand how interactions between different parts of the mouse brain give rise to a variety of behaviors and abilities. Also, it's being made freely available! #science #neuroscience http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v508/n7495/full/nature13186.html

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The #fruitfly #DrisophilaMelanogaster has been an invaluable tool in the study of #biology for 100+ years. These animals have been used because they are relatively simple, yet still have features we strive to understand (e.g #chromosomes, a #centralnervoussystem). Another advantage is that many animals can be observed in a relatively short period of time. These authors take this last idea to a new extreme. They obswrved 37,000 individual flies while using #lasers to stimulate 1,000 different #neuronal lines. They recorded the resulting behaviors on video and used a #machinelearning #algorithm to automatically sort the behaviors into categories, validating the sorting by hand after. This allowed them to estimate the probability that each of the neuronal lines was involved in a given behavior. #bigdata #biology #neuroscience #sciencemagazine http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2014/03/26/science.1250298

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The long-fin #squid (Doryteuthis pealeii) can control its skin's #color and #iridescence. Both are controlled by neural pathways, but it was previously unknown which pathways or what stimuli affect iridescence. This work shows that iridescence changes occur in response to environmental luminance changes, and that iridescence control signals are routed through the stellate #ganglion, a distinct pathway from that for controlling skin pigment. #science #neuroscience #biology #jeb http://jeb.biologists.org/content/217/6/850.abstract