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New theory on how Earth’s crust was created

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More than 90% of Earth’s continental crust is made up of silica-rich minerals, such as feldspar and quartz. But where did this silica-enriched material come from? And could it provide a clue in the search for life on other planets? Conventional theory holds that all of the early Earth’s crustal ingredients were formed by volcanic activity. Now, however, McGill University earth scientists Don Baker and Kassandra Sofonio have published a theory with a novel twist: some of the chemical components of this material settled onto Earth’s early surface from the steamy atmosphere that prevailed at the time. First, a bit of ancient geochemical history: Scientists believe that a Mars-sized planetoid plowed into the proto-Earth around 4.5 billion years ago, melting the Earth and turning it into an ocean of magma. In the wake of that impact - which also created enough debris to form the moon - the Earth’s surface gradually cooled until it was more or less solid. Baker’s new theory, like the conventional one, is based on that premise.

 

Global bipolar disorder study reveals thinning of gray matter in brain regions responsible for inhibition and emotion

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Bipolar patients tend to have gray matter reductions in frontal brain regions involved in self-control (orange colors), while sensory and visual regions are normal (gray colors). [Image courtesy of the ENIGMA Bipolar Consortium/Derrek Hibar et al.]

 

In the largest MRI study on patients with bipolar disorder to date, a global consortium published new research showing that people with the condition have differences in the brain regions that control inhibition and emotion. The new study, published in Molecular Psychiatry on May 2, found brain abnormalities in people with bipolar disorder. By revealing clear and consistent alterations in key brain regions, the findings shed light on the underlying mechanisms of bipolar disorder. “We created the first global map of bipolar disorder and how it affects the brain, resolving years of uncertainty on how people’s brains differ when they have this severe illness,” said Ole A. Andreassen, senior author of the study and a professor at the Norwegian Centre for Mental Disorders Research (NORMENT) at the University of Oslo.

 

Modified soybeans yield more in future climate conditions

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Soybeans grown in fields that simulate 2050 temperatures show signs of stress. Researchers have discovered modified soybeans that yield more than current varieties in 2050 field conditions.

 

●    By 2050—in the midst of increasing temperature and carbon dioxide levels—we will need to produce 70 percent more food to meet the demands of 9.7 billion people.

●    Researchers at the University of Illinois have modified soybeans to yield more when both temperature and carbon dioxide levels increase, which suggests that we might be able to combat heat-related yield loss with genetic engineering.

●    Simplistically, carbon dioxide increases yield and temperature cuts yield; however, this work illustrates that these complex factors work together to influence crop photosynthesis and productivity.

 

By 2050, we will need to feed 2 billion more people on less land. Meanwhile, carbon dioxide levels are predicted to hit 600 parts per million—a 150 percent increase over today’s levels—and 2050 temperatures are expected to frequently match the top 5 percent hottest days from 1950-1979. In a three-year field study, researchers proved engineered soybeans yield more than conventional soybeans in 2050’s predicted climatic conditions.

 

Neonicotinoid pesticide reduces egg development in wild bumblebee queens

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Bombus Terrestris Bee

 

New research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has found that wild bumblebee queens are less able to develop their ovaries when exposed to a common neonicotinoid pesticide. The research was conducted by Dr Gemma Baron , Professor Mark Brown of Royal Holloway, University of London and Professor Nigel Raine, (now based at the University of Guelph). The study investigated the impact of exposure to field-realistic levels of a neonicotinoid insecticide (thiamethoxam) on the feeding behaviour and ovary development of four species of bumblebee queen.

 

Phthalates increase the risk of allergies among children

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Phthalates, which are used as plasticizers in plastics, can considerably increase the risk of allergies among children. This was demonstrated by UFZ researchers in conjunction with scientists from the University of Leipzig and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) in a current study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. According to this study, an increased risk of children developing allergic asthma exists if the mother has been particularly heavily exposed to phthalates during pregnancy and breastfeeding. The mother-child cohort from the LINA study was the starting and end point of this translational study. In our day-to-day lives, we come into contact with countless plastics containing plasticizers. These plasticizers, which also include the aforementioned phthalates, are used when processing plastics in order to make the products more flexible. Phthalates can enter our bodies through the skin, foodstuffs or respiration. "It is a well-known fact that phthalates affect our hormone system and can thereby have an adverse effect on our metabolism or fertility. But that's not the end of it," says UFZ environmental immunologist Dr Tobias Polte. "The results of our current study demonstrate that phthalates also interfere with the immune system and can significantly increase the risk of developing allergies."

 

Potential for Saudi Arabian coral reefs to shine

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Marine surveys estimating fish population density and diversity are crucial to our understanding of how human activities impact coral reef ecosystems and to our ability to make informed management plans for sustainability. KAUST researchers recently conducted the first baseline surveys of reefs in the southern Red Sea by comparing reefs off the coast of Saudi Arabia with those of Sudan1. “A major issue is that there is no established historical record for Red Sea ecosystems,” said Dr. Darren Coker, who worked on the project with KAUST M.Sc. Alumnus Alexander Kattan and Professor Michael Berumen all of the University’s Red Sea Research Center. “This means we can only hypothesize what the natural reef environment would have looked like before human interference through fishing began.”

 

Rosemary aroma can aid children’s working memory

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Exposure to the aroma of rosemary essential oil can significantly enhance working memory in children. This is one the findings of a study presented today, Thursday 4 May 2017, by Dr Mark Moss and Victoria Earle of Northumbria University at the British Psychological Society Annual Conference in Brighton. Dr Mark Moss said: “Our previous study demonstrated the aroma of rosemary essential oil could enhance cognition in healthy adults. Knowing how important working memory is in academic achievement we wanted to see if similar effects could be found in school age children in classroom settings.” A total of 40 children aged 10 to 11 took part in a class based test on different mental tasks. Children were randomly assigned to a room that had either rosemary oil diffused in it for ten minutes or a room with no scent.

 

Earliest relative of Brachiosaurus dinosaur found in France

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This Vouivria herd are roaming the coast of what is now Europe.

 

Scientists have re-examined an overlooked museum fossil and discovered that it is the earliest known member of the titanosauriform family of dinosaurs. The fossil, which the researchers from Imperial College London and their colleagues in Europe have named Vouivria damparisensis, has been identified as a brachiosaurid sauropod dinosaur. The researchers suggest the age of Vouivria is around 160 million years old, making it the earliest known fossil from the titanosauriform family of dinosaurs, which includes better-known dinosaurs such as the Brachiosaurus. When the fossil was first discovered in France in the 1930s, its species was not identified, and until now it has largely been ignored in scientific literature. The new analysis of the fossil indicates that Vouivria died at an early age, weighed around 15,000 kilograms and was over 15 metres long, which is roughly 1.5 times the size of a double-decker bus in the UK.

 

How do fishes perceive their environment?

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In this image generated using micro-computed tomography, the blue dyed lateral lines of the ide (Leuciscus idus) are clear to see. Source: Dr. Hendrik Herzog

 

Fishes perceive changes in water currents caused by prey, conspecifics and predators using their lateral line. The tiny sensors of this organ also allow them to navigate reliably. However, with increasing current velocities, the background signal also increases. Scientists at the University of Bonn have now created a realistic, three-dimensional model of a fish for the first time and have simulated the precise current conditions. The virtual calculations show that particular anatomical adaptations minimize background noise. The results are now being presented in The Journal of the Royal Society Interface. The ide (Leuciscus idus) is a fish that inhabits the lower stretches of slow-flowing rivers. Like most fishes, it can perceive the current using its lateral line. The mechanoreceptors of this organ are distributed over the surface of the entire body, which is why the organ provides a three-dimensional image of the hydrodynamic conditions. Fishes can thus also find their way around themselves in the dark and identify prey, conspecifics, or predators. The recently retired zoologist Prof. Horst Bleckmann from the University of Bonn has spent many years researching the sensitive organ and has used it as inspiration for technical flow sensors in order to, for instance, identify leakages in water pipes.

 

Researchers develop online support for people with Bipolar Disorder

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An online relapse prevention tool for Bipolar Disorder offers a “cheap accessible option” for people seeking support following treatment, say researchers. Bipolar Disorder (BD) is a lifelong mental health condition characterised by depression and mania. It affects one per cent of adults worldwide and costs an estimated £5.2 billion annually in England alone. It is treated with medication, yet many people continue to experience relapses. Enhanced Relapse Prevention (ERPonline) is a psychological approach developed by the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research. It teaches people with Bipolar Disorder (BD) to recognise and respond to early warning signs of relapse. Lead researcher Professor Fiona Lobban from the Spectrum Centre for Mental Health Research at Lancaster University said: “The key elements are identifying your individual triggers and early warning signs for both mania and depression, and developing coping strategies to manage mood changes in everyday life.”

 

Why is Herpes Simplex Virus Disease Risk So Much Greater for Newborns?

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Interferon is a crucial component of the human immune system's response to infection by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), but how important a role it plays in determining the severity of disease and explaining why newborns are so much more susceptible to HSV-1 infection than adults remains unclear. A comprehensive review of the contribution of type I interferon (IFN) to controlling HSV-1 infection is presented in an article published in DNA and Cell Biology, a peer-reviewed journal from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers. The article is available free on the DNA and Cell Biology website until May 19, 2017. In the article entitled "The Type I Interferon Response and Age-Dependent Susceptibility to Herpes Simplex Virus Infection," Daniel Giraldo, Douglas Wilcox, and Richard Longnecker, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL, provide an in-depth look at the IFN response to HSV-1 infection. The authors examine the factors that may explain why newborns infected with HSV-1 are at greater risk for serious and potentially life-threatening diseases such as herpes simplex encephalitis, whereas in adults orolabial lesions are the more likely result of HSV-1 infection.

 
 
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