Humans evolution rapidly evolving

Evolution Human

Evolution Human

 

Humans are evolving more rapidly than previously thought, according to the largest ever genetics study of a single population.

Scientists reached the conclusion after showing that almost every man alive can trace his origins to one common male ancestor who lived about 250,000 years ago. The discovery that so-called “genetic Adam”, lived about 100,000 years more recently than previously understood suggests that humans must have been genetically diverging at a more rapid rate than thought.

Kári Stefánsson, of the company deCODE Genetics and senior author of the study, said: “It means we have evolved faster than we thought.”

The study also shows that the most recent common male ancestor was alive at around the same time as “mitochondrial Eve” – the last woman to whom all females alive today can trace their mitochondrial DNA.

Unlike their biblical counterparts, genetic Adam and Eve were by no means the only humans alive, and although they almost certainly never met, the latest estimate which gives a closer match between their dates makes more sense, according to the researchers.

When the overall population size is stable – as it has been for long periods in the past – men have, on average, just one son, and women, just one daughter. This means that for any given man, there is a high chance that his paternal line will eventually come to an end. This means any male descendants, for instance his daughter’s son, would have Y-chromosomes inherited from other men. If you travelled back far enough in time, the theory goes, there would be only one man whose paternal line extends unbroken to the present day: this man is Y-chromosome Adam.

The researchers dated the existence of this man by comparing the Y-chromsomes of 753 Icelandic men, who were also grouped into 274 paternal lines. The researchers used a “molecular clock”, based on the number of DNA mutations that arise with each generation, to estimate Adam’s age.

The study, published in Nature Genetics, put the new age for genetic Adam at between 174,000 and 321,000 years ago. Genetic Eve is thought to have walked the Earth around 200,000 years ago: well within the new error margin for Adam.

“It gives us enormous confidence to have a timeline that is similar,” said Stefánsson.

Previous dates for ancestral Adam ranged from far more recent, just 50,000 years ago, right back to around 500,000 years ago, with some estimates showing major mismatches with the dating of ancestral Eve. Some researchers had suggested that polygamy could explain the gap, in the cases where Adam was more recent, by reducing the number of men who would pass on their Y-chromosome. Stefánsson describes this argument as a “crock of shit”. “The two sexes are inseparable,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how many women a man has children with – half of them will be boys and half girls.”

Agnar Helgason, also of deCODE, said the latest findings could help refine dates for major events during human evolution, such as when humans first migrated out of Africa and arrived in Europe. “We’re curious about where we came from and when,” he said. “This gives us a bit more solid information about when.”

Previous research also suggested that humans are evolving more quickly now than at any time since the split with the ancestors of modern chimpanzees 6m years ago. The study, by the University of Wisconsin, found that at least 7% of human genes have undergone recent evolution. Some of the changes included the emergence of fair skin and blue eyes in northern Europe, greater resistance to malaria in some African populations and the appearance of a gene that allows lactose to be digested.

 

Source:  theguardian.com

Scientists Closing in on Consciousness

 

 

Scientists Closing in on Theory of Consciousness

Scientists Closing in on Theory of Consciousness

Probably for as long as humans have been able to grasp the concept of consciousness, they have sought to understand the phenomenon.

Studying the mind was once the province of philosophers, some of whom still believe the subject is inherently unknowable. But neuroscientists are making strides in developing a true science of the self.

Here are some of the best contenders for a theory of consciousness.

Cogito ergo sum

Not an easy concept to define, consciousness has been described as the state of being awake and aware of what is happening around you, and of having a sense of self. [Top 10 Mysteries of the Mind]

The 17th century French philosopher René Descartes proposed the notion of “cogito ergo sum” (“I think, therefore I am”), the idea that the mere act of thinking about one’s existence proves there is someone there to do the thinking.

Descartes also believed the mind was separate from the material body — a concept known as mind-body duality — and that these realms interact in the brain’s pineal gland. Scientists now reject the latter idea, but some thinkers still support the notion that the mind is somehow removed from the physical world.

But while philosophical approaches can be useful, they do not constitute testable theories of consciousness, scientists say.

“The only thing you know is, ‘I am conscious.’ Any theory has to start with that,” said Christof Koch, a neuroscientist and the chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Neuroscience in Seattle.

Correlates of consciousness

In the last few decades, neuroscientists have begun to attack the problem of understanding consciousness from an evidence-based perspective. Many researchers have sought to discover specific neurons or behaviors that are linked to conscious experiences.

Recently, researchers discovered a brain area that acts as a kind of on-off switch for the brain. When they electrically stimulated this region, called the claustrum, the patient became unconscious instantly. In fact, Koch and Francis Crick, the molecular biologist who famously helped discover the double-helix structure of DNA, had previously hypothesized that this region might integrate information across different parts of the brain, like the conductor of a symphony.

But looking for neural or behavioral connections to consciousness isn’t enough, Koch said. For example, such connections don’t explain why the cerebellum, the part of the brain at the back of the skull that coordinates muscle activity, doesn’t give rise to consciousness, while the cerebral cortex (the brain’s outermost layer) does. This is the case even though the cerebellum contains more neurons than the cerebral cortex.

Nor do these studies explain how to tell whether consciousness is present, such as in brain-damaged patients, other animals or even computers. [Super-Intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]

Neuroscience needs a theory of consciousness that explains what the phenomenon is and what kinds of entities possess it, Koch said. And currently, only two theories exist that the neuroscience community takes seriously, he said.

Integrated information

Neuroscientist Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison developed one of the most promising theories for consciousness, known as integrated information theory.

Understanding how the material brain produces subjective experiences, such as the color green or the sound of ocean waves, is what Australian philosopher David Chalmers calls the “hard problem” of consciousness. Traditionally, scientists have tried to solve this problem with a bottom-up approach. As Koch put it, “You take a piece of the brain and try to press the juice of consciousness out of [it].” But this is almost impossible, he said.

In contrast, integrated information theory starts with consciousness itself, and tries to work backward to understand the physical processes that give rise to the phenomenon, said Koch, who has worked with Tononi on the theory.

The basic idea is that conscious experience represents the integration of a wide variety of information, and that this experience is irreducible. This means that when you open your eyes (assuming you have normal vision), you can’t simply choose to see everything in black and white, or to see only the left side of your field of view.

Instead, your brain seamlessly weaves together a complex web of information from sensory systems and cognitive processes. Several studies have shown that you can measure the extent of integration using brain stimulation and recording techniques.

The integrated information theory assigns a numerical value, “phi,” to the degree of irreducibility. If phi is zero, the system is reducible to its individual parts, but if phi is large, the system is more than just the sum of its parts.

This system explains how consciousness can exist to varying degrees among humans and other animals. The theory incorporates some elements of panpsychism, the philosophy that the mind is not only present in humans, but in all things.

An interesting corollary of integrated information theory is that no computer simulation, no matter how faithfully it replicates a human mind, could ever become conscious. Koch put it this way: “You can simulate weather in a computer, but it will never be ‘wet.'”

Global workspace

Another promising theory suggests that consciousness works a bit like computer memory, which can call up and retain an experience even after it has passed.

Bernard Baars, a neuroscientist at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, developed the theory, which is known as the global workspace theory. This idea is based on an old concept from artificial intelligence called the blackboard, a memory bank that different computer programs could access.

Anything from the appearance of a person’s face to a memory of childhood can be loaded into the brain’s blackboard, where it can be sent to other brain areas that will process it.  According to Baars’ theory, the act of broadcasting information around the brain from this memory bank is what represents consciousness.

The global workspace theory and integrated information theories are not mutually exclusive, Koch said. The first tries to explain in practical terms whether something is conscious or not, while the latter seeks to explain how consciousness works more broadly.

“At this point, both could be true,” Koch said.

 

Source:  livescience.com

Snopes.com officially a Hoax

Snopes.com Debunked as a Hoax

Snopes.com Debunked as a Hoax

Legendary urban legend debunking site snopes.com has been revealed to be a hoax after all.

After nearly 14 years patrolling the internet highways with a truth flashlight and de-misinformation nightstick, website owners Barbara and David P. Mikkelson finally came clean last night and admitted the whole thing was a joke.

“We never debunked anything”, Barbara sobbed “Most of the rumours on the site were actually true. We were just bored and hungry so we spent our evenings writing counter-conspiratorial guff to appease the anorak-wearing pedant in us all”

Astonishingly during our interview they revealed that Coca-Cola invented Santa Claus, the moon landings were faked and horrifyingly Madonna is actually a woman.

As we probed we discovered their deception was not just mental. It was financial. Mentally financial, as it emerged that the couple profited from the supposedly fake Microsoft email-tracking giveaway chain-mail in the late 90s, netting nearly $2,034,000 in pure hoax profit.

“Yes. Microsoft did develop this amazing email tracking technology which can detect if you forward an email and then pay you cash. It’s true. By debunking this rumour we were able to single-handedly get our hands on entire pot Microsoft put aside. We were just about to debunk the current Live Cashback promotion before the game was up.”

Finally Snopes confessed that the recent Steve Jobs fake death incident  was fact. A true fact. David P. Mikkelson admitting under non-lethal questioning techniques that the Apple CEO passed away in strange circumstances.

“Yes, in his current human form he is dead. However, like when he was fired from Apple in 1985, he will be back. I promise you…”

We at TechChuff cannot confirm or deny rumours that Steve Jobs will rise from the grave and helm MacWorld this year nor how weirded out we were when David said this

 

Source:  techchuff.com

Observations distinguish cause-effect relation between two variables.

cause-effect relation between two variables.

cause-effect relation between two variables.

 

Contrary to the statistician’s slogan, in the quantum world, certain kinds of correlations do imply causation.

Research from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics shows that in quantum mechanics, certain kinds of observations will let you distinguish whether there is a common cause or a cause-effect relation between two variables. The same is not true in classical physics.

Explaining the observed correlations among a number of variables in terms of underlying causal mechanisms, known as the problem of ‘causal inference’, is challenging but experts in field of machine learning have made significant progress in recent years Physicists are now exploring how this problem appears in a quantum context.

Causal inference hinges on the distinction between correlation and causation. “If A and B are correlated, then when you learn about A, you update your knowledge of B – this is inference. If A causes B, then by manipulating A, you can control B – this is influence,” said Robert Spekkens, a faculty member at Perimeter Institute and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo. “In quantum foundations, this distinction is key.”

Knowing if a correlation arises from a cause-effect relation or a common cause relation is a fundamental problem in science. A prime example: drug trials. When physicians observe a correlation between treatment and recovery, they cannot presume that the treatment is the cause of the recovery. If men are more likely to choose the treatment and also more likely to recover spontaneously, regardless of treatment, then the correlation would be explained by a common cause.

That is why, when testing treatments, pharmaceutical companies intervene and randomly assign either the drug or a placebo to participants. This ensures that the treatment variable is statistically independent of any potential common causes. This is a general feature of classical statistics: one needs to intervene in order to determine whether the correlations are due to a cause-effect relation, a common cause relation, or a mix of both.

The paper, published today in Nature Physics, demonstrates that quantum effects can eliminate the need for intervention. “This research provides a new way to think about quantum mechanics,” said Professor Kevin Resch, Canada Research Chair in Optical Quantum Technologies in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “It’s also a really useful framework for thinking about foundational problems.”

Spekkens, along with PhD student Katja Ried and fellow theorist Dominik Janzing, considered the situation of an observer who is probing two variables and finds them to be correlated. The observer doesn’t know whether this is because they are the input and output of a quantum process, that is, cause-effect related, or because they are the two halves of an entangled quantum state, and therefore correlated by a common cause. They realized that certain patterns of correlations are distinctive to each scenario.

Spekkens with Resch and Ried in Resch’s Quantum Optics and Quantum Information Lab.

Resch, together with his students Megan Agnew and Lydia Vermeyden, had the tools to put this idea to the test. They built a photonic circuit that could switch between the two scenarios proposed by the theorists, allowing them to vary the causal structure realized by the experiment.

Their results confirmed that the quantum effects of entanglement and coherence provide an advantage for causal inference. This parallels the way in which quantum effects can help to solve computational problems and make cryptography more secure. Thinking about which practical tasks are easier in a quantum world has traditionally led to many insights into its foundations.

The team describes their work as opening the door to answering questions such as: How can these techniques be generalized to scenarios involving more than two systems? Is the menu of possible causal relations between quantum systems larger than between classical systems? How should we understand causality in a quantum world?

 

Source:  eurekalert.org

NSA Reveal How To Hide From The NSA

NSA

NSA

 

If you want a truly anonymous life, then maybe it’s time you learned about Tor, CSpace and ZRTP.

These three technologies could help people hide their activities from the National Security Agency, according to NSA documents newly obtained from the archive of former contractor Edward Snowden by the German magazine Der Spiegel.

The combination of Tor, CSpace and ZRTP (plus another anonymizing technology for good measure) results in levels of protection that the NSA deems “catastrophic” — meaning the organization has “near-total loss/lack of insight to target communications,” according to Der Spiegel.

“Although the documents are around two years old, experts consider it unlikely the agency’s digital spies have made much progress in cracking these technologies,” Spiegel’s staff wrote.

In comparison, accessing somebody’s Facebook messages is considered a “minor” task for the agency. Similarly, virtual private networks (or VPNs), which are widely used by companies, are easily accessed by the NSA, according to Der Spiegel’s report, as are so-called “HTTPS” connections.

So, what are these services and what do you actually have to do to use them?

Tor is basically a network that offers an easy way for people to mask their location when communicating online. Anyone can download Tor’s web browser — it’s available on Mac, Windows, Linux, and smartphones. It’s not foolproof: When using Tor, you’re advised to sacrifice the convenience of browser plugins, torrent downloads, and websites that don’t use “HTTPS encryption” if you truly want to stay off the grid.

And that’s just if you want to mask your online habits — messaging and phone calls require more steps still, meaning you also have to add CSpace and ZRTP if you want to hide those from the NSA, according to Der Spiegel.

CSpace is a program that lets people text chat and transfer files, while ZRTP is a form of encryption that protects mobile phone calls and texting — it’s used in apps like RedPhone and Signal.

If that all sounds a bit daunting, anonymous living may not be for you. There are plenty of ways to stay relatively private online. But true anonymity is harder to achieve, and so coveted that some people will pay $629 for a special phone that purports to keep a user’s information more secure.

As noted, the Snowden documents are a couple of years old; it’s possible the NSA has found ways around these tools by now. But for the privacy-conscious, they are certain to work better than a tinfoil hat.

 

Source:  huffingtonpost.com

Harmful Effects of Smoking in Unborn Babies

Harmful Effects of Smoking

Harmful Effects of Smoking

 

The harmful effects of smoking during pregnancy may be reflected in the facial movements of mothers’ unborn babies, new research has suggested.

Researchers at Durham and Lancaster universities said the findings of their pilot study added weight to existing evidence that smoking is harmful to fetuses as they develop in the womb and warranted further investigation.

Observing 4-d ultrasound scans, the researchers found that fetuses whose mothers were smokers showed a significantly higher rate of mouth movements than the normal declining rate of movements expected in a fetus during pregnancy.

The researchers suggested that the reason for this might be that the fetal central nervous system, which controls movements in general and facial movements in particular did not develop at the same rate and in the same manner as in fetuses of mothers who did not smoke during pregnancy.

Previous studies have reported a delay in relation to speech processing abilities in infants exposed to smoking during pregnancy, the researchers added.

The researchers observed 80 4-d ultrasound scans of 20 fetuses, to assess subtle mouth and touch movements. Scans were taken at four different intervals between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy.

Four of the fetuses belonged to mothers who smoked an average of 14 cigarettes per day, while the remaining 16 fetuses were being carried by mothers who were non-smokers. All fetuses were clinically assessed and were healthy when born.

In common with other studies, the research also showed that maternal stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, but that the increase in mouth and touch movements was even higher in babies whose mothers smoked.

The study also found some evidence of a bigger delay in the reduction of facial touching by fetuses whose mothers smoked, compared to the fetuses of non-smokers, but the researchers said this delay was less significant.

The research is published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.

 

Harmful Effects of Smoking

Harmful Effects of Smoking

Lead author Dr Nadja Reissland, in Durham University’s Department of Psychology, said: “Fetal facial movement patterns differ significantly between fetuses of mothers who smoked compared to those of mothers who didn’t smoke.

“Our findings concur with others that stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, and need to be controlled for, but additionally these results point to the fact that nicotine exposure per se has an effect on fetal development over and above the effects of stress and depression.

“A larger study is needed to confirm these results and to investigate specific effects, including the interaction of maternal stress and smoking.”

Co-author Professor Brian Francis, of Lancaster University, added: “Technology means we can now see what was previously hidden, revealing how smoking affects the development of the fetus in ways we did not realise. This is yet further evidence of the negative effects of smoking in pregnancy.”

The researchers stressed that their research was a pilot study and that larger studies were needed to confirm and further understand the relationship between maternal smoking, stress, depression and fetal development.

They added that future studies should also take into account the smoking behaviours of fathers.

 

Source:  neurosciencenews.com

Scientists create organism with ‘Alien’ DNA

organism with 'alien' DNA

organism with ‘alien’ DNA

Scientists have created the first “semi-synthetic” micro-organism with a radically different genetic code from the rest of life on Earth.

The researchers believe the breakthrough is the first step towards creating new microbial life-forms with novel industrial or medical properties resulting from a potentially massive expansion of genetic information.

The semi-synthetic microbe, a genetically modified E. coli bacterium, has been endowed with an extra artificial piece of DNA with an expanded genetic alphabet – instead of the usual four “letters” of the alphabet its DNA molecule has six.

The natural genetic code of all living things is based on a sequence of four bases – G, C, T, A – which form two sets of bonded pairs, G to C and T to A, that link the two strands of the DNA double helix.

The DNA of the new semi-synthetic microbe, however, has a pair of extra base pairs, denoted by X and Y, which pair up together like the other base pairs and are fully integrated into the rest of the DNA’s genetic code.

The scientists said that the semi-synthetic E. coli bacterium replicates normally and is able to pass on the new genetic information to subsequent generations. However, it was not able to use the new encoded information to produce any novel proteins – the synthetic DNA was added as an extra circular strand that did not take part in the bacterium’s normal metabolic functions.

The study, published in the journal Nature, is the first time that scientists have managed to produce a genetically modified microbe that is able to function and replicate with a different genetic code to the one that is thought to have existed ever since life first started to evolve on Earth more than 3.5 billion years ago.

“Life on earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G, and what we’ve made is an organism that stably contains those two plus a third, unnatural pair of bases,” said Professor Floyd Romesberg of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

“This shows that other solutions to storing information are possible and, of course, takes us closer to an expanded-DNA biology that will have many exciting applications, from new medicines to new kinds of nanotechnology,” Professor Romesberg said.

Expanding the genetic code with an extra base pair raises the prospect of building new kinds of proteins from a much wider range of amino acids than the 20 or so that exist in nature. A new code based on six base pairs could in theory deal with more than 200 amino acids, the scientists said.

“In principle, we could encode new proteins made from new, unnatural amino acids, which would give us greater power than ever to tailor protein therapeutics and diagnostics and laboratory reagents to have desired functions,” Professor Romesberg said.

“Other applications, such as nanomaterials, are also possible,” he added.

The researchers emphasised that there is little danger of the new life-forms living outside the confines of the laboratory, as they are not able to replicate with their synthetic DNA strand unless they are continuously fed the X and Y bases – synthetic chemicals called “d5SICS” and “dNaM”, that do not exist in nature.

The bacteria also need a special protein to transport the new bases around the cell of the microbe. The transporter protein comes from algae and if it, or the X and Y bases, are lacking, the microbial cells revert back to the natural genetic code, said Denis Malyshev of the Scripps Institute.

“Our new bases can only get into the cell if we turn on the “base transporter” protein. Without this transporter or when the new bases are not provided, the cell will revert back to A, T, G, C and the d5SICS and the dNaM will disappear from the genome,” Dr Malyshev said.

 

Source:  independent.co.uk

First photograph of light as a particle and a wave

Quantum mechanics tells us that light can behave simultaneously as a particle or a wave. However, there has never been an experiment able to capture both natures of light at the same time; the closest we have come is seeing either wave or particle, but always at different times. Taking a radically different experimental approach, EPFL scientists have now been able to take the first ever snapshot of light behaving both as a wave and as a particle. The breakthrough work is published in Nature Communications.

When UV light hits a metal surface, it causes an emission of electrons. Albert Einstein explained this “photoelectric” effect by proposing that light – thought to only be a wave – is also a stream of particles. Even though a variety of experiments have successfully observed both the particle- and wave-like behaviors of light, they have never been able to observe both at the same time.

A new approach on a classic effect

A research team led by Fabrizio Carbone at EPFL has now carried out an experiment with a clever twist: using electrons to image light. The researchers have captured, for the first time ever, a single snapshot of light behaving simultaneously as both a wave and a stream of particles particle.

The experiment is set up like this: A pulse of laser light is fired at a tiny metallic nanowire. The laser adds energy to the charged particles in the nanowire, causing them to vibrate. Light travels along this tiny wire in two possible directions, like cars on a highway. When waves traveling in opposite directions meet each other they form a new wave that looks like it is standing in place. Here, this standing wave becomes the source of light for the experiment, radiating around the nanowire.

This is where the experiment’s trick comes in: The scientists shot a stream of electrons close to the nanowire, using them to image the standing wave of light. As the electrons interacted with the confined light on the nanowire, they either sped up or slowed down. Using the ultrafast microscope to image the position where this change in speed occurred, Carbone’s team could now visualize the standing wave, which acts as a fingerprint of the wave-nature of light.

While this phenomenon shows the wave-like nature of light, it simultaneously demonstrated its particle aspect as well. As the electrons pass close to the standing wave of light, they “hit” the light’s particles, the photons. As mentioned above, this affects their speed, making them move faster or slower. This change in speed appears as an exchange of energy “packets” (quanta) between electrons and photons. The very occurrence of these energy packets shows that the light on the nanowire behaves as a particle.

“This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics – and its paradoxical nature – directly,” says Fabrizio Carbone. In addition, the importance of this pioneering work can extend beyond fundamental science and to future technologies. As Carbone explains: “Being able to image and control quantum phenomena at the nanometer scale like this opens up a new route towards quantum computing.”

 

Source:  eurekalert.org

GMO corn turns stomachs to mush

GMO

GMO

 

If you have stomach problems or gastrointestinal problems, a new study led by Dr. Judy Carman may help explain why: pigs fed a diet of genetically engineered soy and corn showed a 267% increase in severe stomach inflammation compared to those fed non-GMO diets. In males, the difference was even more pronounced: a 400% increase. (For the record, most autistic children are males, and nearly all of them have severe intestinal inflammation.)

The study was conducted on 168 young pigs on an authentic farm environment and was carried out over a 23-week period by eight researchers across Australia and the USA. The lead researcher, Dr. Judy Carman, is from the Institute of Health and Environmental Research in Kensington Park, Australia. The study has now been published in the Journal of Organic Systems, a peer-reviewed science journal.

The study is the first to show what appears to be a direct connection between the ingestion of GMO animal feed and measurable damage to the stomachs of those animals. Tests also showed abnormally high uterine weights of animals fed the GMO diets, raising further questions about the possibility of GMOs causing reproductive organ damage.

Proponents of corporate-dominated GMO plant science quickly attacked the study, announcing that in their own minds, there is no such thing as any evidence linking GMOs to biological harm in any animals whatsoever. And they are determined to continue to believe that, even if it means selectively ignoring the increasingly profound and undeniable tidal wave of scientific studies that repeatedly show GMOs to be linked with severe organ damage, cancer tumors and premature death.

“Adverse effects… toxic effects… clear evidence”

The study was jointly announced by GM Watch and Sustainable Pulse.

Lead author of the study Dr. Judy Carman stated, “We found these adverse effects when we fed the animals a mixture of crops containing three GM genes and the GM proteins that these genes produce. Yet no food regulator anywhere in the world requires a safety assessment for the possible toxic effects of mixtures. Our results provide clear evidence that regulators need to safety assess GM crops containing mixtures of GM genes, regardless of whether those genes occur in the one GM plant or in a mixture of GM plants eaten in the same meal, even if regulators have already assessed GM plants containing single GM genes in the mixture.”

The following photo shows one of the pig intestines fed a non-GMO diet vs. a pig intestine fed a GMO diet. As you can see from the photo, the pig fed the GMO diet suffered severe inflammation of the stomach:

Yet more evidence that GMOs damage mammals

The study adds to the weight of scientific evidence from others studies which show that rats fed a diet of GMOs grow horrifying cancer tumors and suffer premature death.

A scientific study published last year concluded that eating genetically modified corn (GM corn) and consuming trace levels of Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide was linked with rats developing shockingly large tumors, widespread organ damage, and premature death.

That study was also criticized by corporate GMO trolls who argued that scientists should not show pictures of rats with large cancer tumors caused by GMOs because the pictures scare consumers into being afraid of GMOs.

Here are some of the pictures they don’t want you to see, taken right from the public announcement of the study:

That study also found that rats fed GM corn suffered severe kidney damage as well as shockingly high rates of premature death.
Source:  naturalnews.com

Sugar kills good cholesterol,

sugar

sugar

Scientists at the University of Warwick have discovered that ‘good’ cholesterol is turned ‘bad’ by a sugar-derived substance.

The substance, methylglyoxal – MG, was found to damage ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, which removes excess levels of bad cholesterol from the body.

Low levels of HDL, High Density Lipoprotein, are closely linked to heart disease, with increased levels of MG being common in the elderly and those with diabetes or kidney problems.

Supported by funding from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and published in Nutrition and Diabetes, the researchers discovered that MG destabilises HDL and causes it to lose the properties which protect against heart disease.

HDL damaged by MG is rapidly cleared from the blood, reducing its HDL content, or remains in plasma having lost its beneficial function.

Lead researcher Dr Naila Rabbani, of the Warwick Medical School, says that: “MG damage to HDL is a new and likely important cause of low and dysfunctional HDL, and could count for up to a 10% risk of heart disease”.

There are currently no drugs that can reverse low levels of HDL, but the Warwick researchers argue that by discovering how MG damages HDL has provided new potential strategies for reducing MG levels.

Commenting on the research’s implications Dr Rabbani said:

“By understanding how MG damages HDL we can now focus on developing drugs that reduce the concentration of MG in the blood, but it not only be drugs that can help.

“We could now develop new food supplements that decrease MG by increasing the amount of a protein called glyoxalase 1, or Glo 1, which converts MG to harmless substances.

“This means that in future we have both new drugs and new foods that can help prevent and correct low HDL, all through the control of MG.”

A potentially damaging substance, MG is formed from glucose in the body. It is 40,000 times more reactive than glucose it damages arginine residue (amino acid) in HDL at functionally important site causing the particle to become unstable.

Glo1 converts MG to harmless substances and protects us. MG levels are normally kept low in the body to maintain good health but they slowly increase with ageing as Glo1 slowly becomes worn out and is only slowly replaced.

Dr Rabbani says: “We call abnormally high levels of MG ‘dicarbonyl stress’. This occurs in some diseases – particularly diabetes, kidney dialysis, heart disease and obesity. We need sufficient Glo1 to keep MG low and keep us in good health.”

Source:   eurekalert.org

Half-Animal, Half-Plant

Half-Animal, Half-Plant Microbe

Half-Animal, Half-Plant Microbe

Japanese scientists have found a mysterious marine microbe, half of which cells eat algae like animals while the rest perform photosynthesis like plants.

Professor Isao Inoue, a member of the University of Tsukuba research team, told the Mainichi Daily News he believes the microbe demonstrates part of the process of single-cell marine microbes evolving into plants.

The research team discovered the single-cell microbe, a kind of flagellate, on a beach in Wakayama Prefecture, and called it “hatena” or “mystery.”

The microbe is originally green and is made up of algae. When it divides into two cells, one takes over the algae from its parent and remains green and the other turns colorless, Mainichi reported.

The animal-type colorless cell develops an organ like a mouth and uses it to eat algae, while the plant-type green one uses algae it has in its body to perform photosynthesis and produce energy, according to the team.

The researchers believe that as the marine microbes evolve into plants, only the chloroplasts in algae they had taken in their cells developed, while the other organs degenerated.

 

Source:  spacedaily.com

 

Alzheimer’s blood test breakthrough

alzheimers

alzheimers

 

A blood test has been developed to predict if someone will develop Alzheimer’s within a year, raising hopes that the disease could become preventable.

After a decade of research, scientists at Oxford University and King’s College London are confident they have found 10 proteins which show the disease is imminent.

Clinical trials will start on people who have not yet developed Alzheimer’s to find out which drugs halt its onset.

The blood test, which could be available in as little as two years, was described as a “major step forward” by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, and by charities which said it could revolutionise research into a cure.

“Although we are making drugs they are all failing. But if we could treat people earlier it may be that the drugs are effective,” said Simon Lovestone, professor of translational neuroscience at Oxford. “Alzheimer’s begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed with the disease. If we could treat the disease in that phase we would in effect have a preventative strategy.”

Clinical trials into so-called “wonder drugs” such as BACE inhibitors and anti-amyloid agents, have shown little improvement for sufferers. Scientists believe that by the time Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, an irreversible “cascade” of symptoms has already occurred.

About 600,000 people in Britain suffer from Alzheimer’s and hundreds of thousands have mild cognitive impairment. Last month, David Cameron pledged to fast-track dementia research.

The new test, which examines 10 proteins in the blood, can predict with 87 per cent ccuracy whether someone suffering memory problems will develop Alzheimer’s within a year.

The researchers used data from three international studies. Blood samples were taken from 1,148 people, 476 of whom had Alzheimer’s, 220 with memory problems, and a control group of 452 without any signs of dementia. The scientists found that 16 proteins were associated with brain shrinkage and memory loss and 10 of those could predict whether someone would develop Alzheimer’s.

Mr Hunt said: “This is welcome research on an issue we’re made a national priority. Developing tests and biomarkers will be important steps forward in the global fight against dementia as we search for a cure.”

Previous studies have shown that PET brain scans and plasma in lumbar fluid could be used to predict that onset of dementia from mild cognitive impairment. But PET imaging is highly expensive and lumbar punctures are invasive and carry risks.

The first tests are likely to be available in between two and five years. However, the study is likely to throw up ethical dilemmas about whether patients should receive potentially devastating news about their future. Prof Lovestone said it was unlikely that GPs would use the test until a treatment was available.

The breakthrough was welcomed by dementia charities and academics.

Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, which helped fund the research, said it brought the prospect of Alzheimer’s becoming a preventable disease “significantly closer”.

Prof Gordon Wilcock, emeritus professor of geratology at Oxford, added that it was “great news”. The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

 

Source:  telegraph.co.uk

Free will is an illusion

Free Will

Free Will

 

Let’s say you’re approaching a fork in the road, and at the very last minute you decide to take the right fork. Common sense says that you made at active decision to take the right fork — a decision you made more or less a split second before you shifted your body ever so slightly in the direction of said fork.

But recent research reveals that decisions such as these may have much deeper neurological roots — so deep, in fact, that scientists can observe patterns of brain activity that allow them to predict the outcome of decisions like these long before a person is even conscious of his own decision.

In other words, scientists have thrown a serious wrench in the works of the notion of free will.

Nature’s Kerri Smith writes:

As humans, we like to think that our decisions are under our conscious control – that we have free will. Philosophers have debated that concept for centuries, and now [neuroscientist John-Dylan] Haynes and other experimental neuroscientists are raising a new challenge. They argue that consciousness of a decision may be a mere biochemical afterthought, with no influence whatsoever on a person’s actions. According to this logic, they say, free will is an illusion.”

In the words of Patrick Haggard, a neuroscientist at University College London: “We feel we choose, but we don’t.”

 

Source:   io9.com

Neglect Harms Brain Development

Childhood neglect leads to harmful changes in the brain, a new study says.

In new research published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers looked at brain differences between Romanian children who were either abandoned and institutionalized, sent to institutions and then to foster families, or were raised in biological families.

Kids who were not raised in a family setting had noticeable alterations in the white matter of their brains later on, while the white matter in the brains of the children who were placed with a foster family looked pretty similar to the brains of the children who were raised with their biological families.

Researchers were interested in white matter, which is largely made up of nerves, because it plays an important role in connecting brain regions and maintaining networks critical for cognition. Prior research has shown that children raised in institutional environments have limited access to language and cognitive stimulation, which could hinder development.

These findings suggest that even if a child were at a risk for poor development due to their living circumstances at an early age, placing them in a new caregiving environment with more support could prevent white matter changes or perhaps even heal them.

More studies are needed, but the researchers believe their findings could help public health efforts aimed at children experiencing severe neglect, as well as efforts to build childhood resiliency.

 

Source:   time.com

Head transplants could be a reality by 2017

Head Transplant

Head Transplant

 

 

Transplanting a human head onto a donor body may sound like the stuff of science fiction comics, but not to Italian doctor Sergio Canavero. He has not only published a paper describing the operation in detail, but also believes that the surgery could be a reality as early as 2017.

Canavero, Director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, initially highlighted the idea in 2013, stating his belief that the technology to successfully join two severed spinal cords existed. Since then he’s worked out the details, describing the operation in his recent paper, as the Gemini spinal cord fusion protocol (GEMINI GCF).

To carry out the transplant, a state of hypothermia is first induced in both the head to be transplanted and the donor body, to help the cells stay alive without oxygen. Surgeons would then cut into the neck tissue of both bodies and connect the blood vessels with tubes. The next step is to cut the spinal cords as neatly as possible with minimal trauma.

The severed head would then be placed on the donor body and the two spinal cords encouraged to fuse together with a sealant called polyethylene glycol, which Canavero notes in his paper, has “the power to literally fuse together severed axons or seal injured leaky neurons.”

After suturing the blood vessels and the skin, the patient is kept in a comatose state for three to four weeks to discourage movement and give both spinal stumps time to fuse. The fusion point will also be electrically stimulated to encourage neural connections and accelerate the growth of a functional neural bridge. The patient will additionally be put on a regime of anti-rejection medications.

According to Canavero, with rehabilitation the patient should be able to speak in their own voice and walk within a year’s time. The goal is to help people who are paralyzed, or whose bodies are otherwise riddled with degenerative diseases and other complications. While the procedure sounds extremely complex and disturbing on multiple levels, Canvero tells us he’s already conducting interviews with volunteers who’ve stepped forward.

“Many are dystrophic,” Canavero says “These people are in horrible pain.”

The most well-known example of a head transplant was when Dr. Robert White, a neurosurgeon, transplanted the head of one rhesus monkey onto another in 1970. The spinal cords, however, were not connected to each other, leaving the monkey unable to control its body. It subsequently died after the donor body rejected the head.

Current technology and recent advances hold out more promise. Canavero plans to garner support for the project, when he presents it at the American Academy of neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons conference in Annapolis, Maryland, later this year. Understandably his proposal has generated incredible controversy, with experts questioning the specifics and ethics of the procedure, even going as far as calling it bad science.

 

Source:   gizmag.com

Brains communicate from thousands of miles away

Brain study

Brain study

 

Brain-to-brain communication study conducted in coordination with Harvard Medical School has proven that extrasensory mind-to mind interaction can happen over great distances by leveraging different pathways in the mind. (Technological telepathy)

The study, coauthored by Alvaro Pascual-Leone, Director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) and a Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, found that information can be successfully transmitted between two intact human brains from distances over 5000 miles apart.

The following is excerpt from an article featured on Smithsonian Mag:

An international research team develops a way to say “hello” with your mind

In a recent experiment, a person in India said “hola” and “ciao” to three other people in France. Today, the Web, smartphones and international calling might make that not seem like an impressive feat, but it was. The greetings were not spoken, typed or texted. The communication in question happened between the brains of a set of study subjects, marking one of the first instances of brain-to-brain communication on record.

The team, whose members come from Barcelona-based research institute Starlab, French firm Axilum Robotics and Harvard Medical School, published its findings earlier this month in the journal PLOS One. Study co-author Alvaro Pascual-Leone, director of the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a neurology professor at Harvard Medical School, hopes this and forthcoming research in the field will one day provide a new communication pathway for patients who might not be able to speak.

“We want to improve the ways people can communicate in the face of limitations—those who might not be able to speak or have sensory impairments,” he says. “Can we work around those limitations and communicate with another person or a computer?”

Pascual-Leone’s experiment was successful—the correspondents neither spoke, nor typed, nor even looked at one another. But he freely concedes that the test was more a proof of concept than anything else, and the technique still has a long way to go. “It’s still very, very early,” he says, “[but] we can show that this is even possible with technology that’s available. It’s the difference between talking on the phone and sending Morse code. To get where we’re going, you need certain steps to be taken first.”

Indeed, the process was drawn out, if not downright inelegant. First, the team had to establish binary-code equivalents of letters; for example “h” is “0-0-1-1-1.” Then, with EEG (electroencephalography) sensors attached to the scalp, the sender moved either his hands or feet to indicate a 1 or a 0. The code then passed to the recipient over email. On the other end, the receiver was blindfolded with a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) system on his head. (TMS is a non-invasive method of stimulating neurons in the brain; it’s most commonly used to treat depression.) The TMS headset stimulated the recipient’s brain, causing him to see quick flashes of light. A flash was equivalent to a “1” and a blank was a “0.” From there, the code was translated back into text.

 

Source:   earthweareone.com