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What prompts you to adventures?

Friday, June 27th, 2008
by Sck

Unknown and unexplored is what catches our attention, and now even researchers agree to that, for they have identified a key region in the brain that triggers our sense of adventure and novelty which governs our sense of choice.

Welcome Trust scientists have said that this region located in a primitive area of the brain, is activated when we choose unfamiliar options, suggesting an evolutionary advantage for sampling the unknown.

The research highlighted that novelty seeking can be strongly adaptive as unfamiliarity tends to be associated with uncertainty and the potential for valuable outcomes.

It may also explain why re-branding of familiar products encourages to pick them off the supermarket shelves.

In the study, researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate the brain activity associated with novelty-related decision making.

“It can be advantageous for an animal to explore new parts of its environment because it might find valuable sources of food there,” said study author Dr. Bianca C. Wittmann from University College London.

“We sought to test a computational hypothesis that brain systems associated with choice behavior use novelty bonuses to encourage exploration of unfamiliar options,” explained co-author Dr. Nathaniel Daw.

Adult subjects performed a carefully designed choice task during which they had the opportunity to win money by selecting from four simultaneously presented images, some of which they were familiarized with before the study.

Essentially, the task could be used to specifically examine a mechanism of exploration directed at perceptual novelty as the payoff for novel options was no more uncertain or valuable than for familiarized options.

It was found that participants preferred novel stimuli to prefamiliarized stimuli and that choosing novelty was associated with activation of the ventral striatum, a region of the brain associated with reward anticipation.

These results suggest that humans are motivated to use novelty as a substitute for true choice uncertainty, even in instances where the degree of unfamiliarity has no actual bearing on the favorableness of choice outcome.

“The substitution of perceptual novelty for choice uncertainty represents a distinct, albeit slight, departure from rational choice that, as in our task, introduces the danger of being sold old wine in a new skin,” said Wittmann.

The Perfect Sandwich

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Bread, cheese, mayonnaise, bacon, some veggies and ketchup – well, this must be the ideal recipe for a yummy sandwich for you, but according to a leading UK chemical engineer, the secret ingredient that would make a perfect sandwich is – bubbles.

While speaking at an Institution of Chemical Engineers’ (IChemE) lecture, Professor Grant Campbell said that bubbles in bread are as important for making a good sandwich as its filling, due to the unique composition of wheat.

“Bread is special because of its bubbles. It’s got these bubbles because wheat, when mixed with water, salt and yeast.

Perfect Sandwich

Dressings found out for Diabestes’ wounds

Friday, June 27th, 2008

The new dressing forms a supporting matrix for newly growing skin cells and is fully absorbed by the body during the healing course.

Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC in Wurzburg have developed a new type of wound dressing made of silica gel fibers that may soon help heal difficult wounds caused by burns or diabetes.

The new dressing forms a supporting matrix for newly growing skin cells and is fully absorbed by the body during the healing process.

Wounds can be treated with conventional collagen dressings or polylactic acid dressings, but the success rate is not as good as it should be.

The researchers hope that the new type of dressing shall solve the problem.

It has many advantages like it is shape-stable, pH-neutral and 100 percent bioresorbable.

Once applied the dressing remains in the body, where it gradually degrades without leaving any residues.

Besides this, the fibre fleece provides the healthy cells around the edges of the wound with the structure they additionally need for a proper supply of growth-supporting nutrients.

To avoid any infection, treatment of the wound must be absolutely sterile.

“As only the outer bandage needs to be changed, the risk of contaminating the wound is low,” Dr. Jorn Probst of the ISC, said.

And because of the supporting matrix for the cells, the chances of a scar-free natural closure of the wound are very good.

The fibers are produced by means of wet-chemical material synthesis, a sol-gel process in which a transparent, honey-like gel is produced from tetraethoxysilane (TEOS), ethanol and water in a multi-stage, acidically catalyzed synthesis process.

The gel is processed in a spinning tower.

“We press it through fine nozzles at constant temperatures and humidity levels,” Walther Glaubitt, the inventor of the silica gel fibers, said.

“This produces fine endless threads which are collected on a traversing table and spun in a specific pattern to produce a roughly A4-sized multi-layer textile web,” Glaubitt added.

The dressings are then cut, packed and sterilized.

Now, the scientists plan to integrate active substances such as antibiotics or painkillers in the dressing to improve and accelerate the healing process.

Effects of mobile phone addictions

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Teens that hardly stop talking on their mobile phones are more prone to disrupted sleep, stress, fatigue and restlessness, finds a new international survey.

This in turn is leading to poorer performance at school, and emotional health, including a higher risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The finding is based on two studies that will be presented at the at the Sleep 2008 meeting of Associated Sleep Societies in the US this week.

The first study was conducted by researchers at Sweden’s Sahlgren Academy, who found that adolescents who made more than 15 phone calls and sent more than 15 text messages in a day not only slept poorly, but when compared to kids who made did the same less than five times a day, they were also leading more careless lifestyles, including spending more time on their computers, drinking more alcohol and caffeinated drinks.

Based on this, lead author Dr Gaby Badre, said that mobile addiction could compromise a teen’s health, reports the Daily Telegraph.

The second study was conducted in the US by Fred Danner at the University of Kentucky.

He found that teens that were addicted to their phones slept less than eight hours a night, and as a result got poorer marks at school. In addition to this, he also found that such kids had a higher level of emotional disturbance and risk of developing ADHD.

Diet and gender of baby

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Diet prior to pregnancy may determine the gender of the offspring, a new research has found.

The study, on sheep, led by R Michael Roberts from the Division of Animal Sciences at the University of Missouri has found that ewes fed with diet enriched in polyunsaturated fats for one month prior to conception have significantly greater odds of giving birth to male offspring.

“Our study ruled out body condition, ewe weight, previous births, time of breeding, and likely dominance as reasons for the gender skewing. Rather, it was the composition of the diet consumed in the time period around conception that was responsible for this sex-ratio effect,” said Roberts.

Polyunsaturated fats are essential nutrients. It is believed that the dietary ratio between omega-3 and omega-6 fats has important biological effects, especially in terms of inflammation, immunity and central nervous system signaling.

The team believes that in animal social groups, where a small number of dominant males mate with a large number of females, healthy, well fed female are more likely to give birth to male offspring while females consuming a poorer diet would have greater genetic success by giving birth to female offspring.

“Although this theory is attractive, former observations have often been contradictory, leading some to dismiss its relevance,” said Roberts.

“This is the first experimental study in controlled conditions showing that supplementing maternal diet, in this case by increasing omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid intake, can skew the sex ratio towards males in a farm species,” he added.

Researchers believe that these findings will be important to the livestock industry.

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