Tuesday, December 19, 2006
It's also a pretty good day for people who drink alcohol. Not that any of them write on this blog, no sir... Researchers have foud evidence that alcoholism-related briain damage may be reversable - subjects displayed significant increases in brain volume after only a few weeks abstinence. Needless to say, brain volume is not necessarily a measure of regrowth (let alone functional improvement), but coupled with improvements on cognitive test scores, this is hopeful research.
On the good side of alcohol consumption, a preliminary Swedish study of mice has found that moderate alcohol consumtpion may help stave off arthritis. Awesome!
Back on the bad-for-your-brains topic, it seems that younger siblings may be more than just annoying: having too many could increase your risk of a brain tumor! I find this result a little bit baffling, so I do hope we hear more soon.
Rats appear to have visual dreams, just like us! We already knew that they used some sort of memory replay in sleep, to help with consolidation just like in humans, but this is the first evidence of something much more like dreams. Granted, this isn't a big shock to me, as one of my dogs is plagued by nightmares (the other one is very good at comforting her after these), but it is nice to have confirmation of my anthropomorphizing tendency!
Speaking of dogs, you might not need that bloodhound afterall: just hire a Berkeley grad student. The researchers had students track the scent of chocolate across a field with one nostril or two, and found that, not only could they do it (like a bloodhound), but also that two nostrils was best for time and accuracy. Cool!
And now, the superheroes. Forget Batman - could the batfish really save the Great Barrier Reef? Unrelatedly, NIH researchers have come upon a potential malaria vaccine which could, if successful, help eliminate that ancient nemesis.