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#Anaological reasoning, the ability to reason by analogy, is a fundamental component of human thought. Are we the only animals that are capable of comprehending analogy? No, other #apes besides humans seem to have this faculty as well, and now it seems that perhaps #crows do as well. Analogical reasoning is tested with the “relational matching-to-sample” (RTMS) test. In RTMS, a subject is presented with a visual sample pair and they must choose a test pair that shares the same relationship as the sample. For example, given a sample pair “AA”, with two test pairs: “BB” and “CD”, the test pair “BB” captures the relationship present in the “AA” sample; given sample pair “EF” and tests “GG” and “HJ”, “HJ” recapitulates the sample’s relationship content. The images here show examples of the types of RTMS stimuli used to test crows’ ability to reason analogically by (1) size, (2) shape, and (3) color (I’ve added the yellow boxes to indicate the correct test pair in each example stimulus set). Impressively, the crows were able to perform this task successfully on average 72% of the time. This result adds to a large repertoire of abilities displayed by crows, but is this skill used by these animals naturally, or are they very good at learning tasks when rewarded with delicious mealworms? In either case, understanding what sorts of #brains might or might not support the use of analogy regardless of naturalistic or lab context is informative. #CurrentBiology http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(14)01557-7

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#Exercise changes the body, improving health and fitness, but how? This study demonstrates that exercise produces #epigenetic modification in skeletal muscle, when the muscle is exercised. Subjects in this study used one leg to pedal for 45 minutes a day for 3 months, and muscle was compared before and after this period of regular exercise in both legs. The authors of the study found that patterns of #methylation and #gene expression in the #DNA of the skeletal muscle of the exercised leg, but not the other leg, had changed significantly. Chromosomes (big chunks of DNA) have differing patterns of methylation (for example, liver cells have different methylation patterns than brain cells), and this is one way that specific genes are expressed (“turned on”) in different cells. This is the first time that these sorts of changes have been observed in human subjects, and this work paves the way for a deeper understanding of how epigenetic changes over our lifetime can affect our health. #Epigenetics via #NYTimes DOI: 10.4161/15592294.2014.982445

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A new study of the effects of #GlycemicIndex on #BloodSugar and #Insulin levels has found no effect of consuming a diet containing high or low glycemic index foods. It is important to note that in comparing the effects of consuming of high or low glycemic index foods, the subjects in this study were all restricted to a low carbohydrate, fixed-calorie diet. Thus, the authors conclude that these factors (low carbohydrate content and a limited number of calories) are likely more important than the glycemic index of the foods consumed. Translation: this isn’t a free pass to eat all the white bread and sweets that you desire; it DOES mean that as long as you watch what you eat in general, you don’t have to worry about glycemic index. #JAMA via #NYTimes http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=2040224