Tag: Brain

Study Reveals The Cheese Triggers The Same Part Of The Brain As Drugs

There’s a good reason why you just can’t resist reaching for another slice of Stilton.

Scientists claim that cheese is as addictive as drugs because of a chemical called casein.

This is found in dairy products and can trigger the brain’s opioid receptors, which are responsible for addiction.

The study, by the University of Michigan, took a look at which items act as the “drugs of the food world“.

The researchers discovered pizza was one of the world’s most addictive foods, largely because of its cheesy topping.

Fat seemed to be equally predictive of problematic eating for everyone, regardless of whether they experience symptoms of ‘food addiction,” Erica Schulte, one of the study’s authors, told Mic.




Dr. Neal Barnard of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said that casein ‘breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates called casomorphins.’

Some scientists believe the influence of cheese is so potent that they refer to it as “dairy crack“.

A number of studies have revealed that casomorphins lock with opioid receptors, which are linked with the control of pain, reward and addiction in the brain.

[Casomorphins] really play with the dopamine receptors and trigger that addictive element,” registered dietitian Cameron Wells told Mic .

Milk contains a tiny amount of casein in milk, but producing a pound of cheese requires about 10 pounds of milk, so the chemical is ingested in high amounts.

According to the University of Illinois Extension Program, caseins makes up 80 per cent of the proteins in cow milk.

The average person is estimated to eat around 35 pounds of cheese – suggesting that it really as addictive as research claims.

The problem is particularly bad when it comes to highly-processed cheese such as ‘plastic cheese’.

Studies in animals have found that highly processed foods, or foods with added fat or refined carbohydrates, may be capable of triggering addictive eating behaviour.

And people with symptoms of food addiction or with higher body mass indexes have reported greater problems with highly processed foods.

This suggests some may be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods, said Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.

If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” Schulte said.

Nicole Avena, assistant professor of pharmacology and systems therapeutics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and a co-author on the study, explained the significance of the findings.

This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response,” she said.

This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”

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How Your Brain Tells Time

In the middle of your brain, there’s a personal assistant the size of a grain of rice. It’s a group of about 20,000 brain cells that keeps your body’s daily schedule.

Partly in response to light signals from the retina, this group of neurons sends signals to other parts of the brain and the rest of the body to help control things like sleep, metabolism, immune system activity, body temperature and hormone production on a schedule slightly longer than 24 hours.

Daniel Forger, a mathematics professor at the University of Michigan who uses math to study biological processes, wants to understand this brain region, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) in excruciating detail.




He is building a mathematical model of the entire structure that he thinks will shed important light on our circadian rhythm, and perhaps lead to treatments for disorders like depression and insomnia, and even diseases influenced by the internal clock like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and cancer.

I think we’re going to be able to have a very accurate model of the circadian rhythm, all the key proteins, all the electric activity of all 20,000 neurons,” he says.

We’ll be able to track all of them for days on a timescale of milliseconds.

Forger has already taken a few steps down this path and found some surprises.

In a paper published in a recent issue of the journal Science, Forger, along with colleagues Mino Belle and Hugh Piggins of the University of Manchester in England and others, showed that the firing pattern of the time-keeping neurons in the SCN was not at all what researchers had long thought.

Researchers who studied the electrical activity of the SCN had believed that the neurons there helped the body keep time by sending lots of electrical signals during the day, and then falling silent at night. Makes sense. Lots of non-teenage creatures are active during the day and quiet at night.

But when Forger used experimental data to build a mathematical model of the electrical activity, he calculated that there should be lots of activity at dawn and dusk, and a state of “quiet alertness” during the day. That didn’t make much intuititve sense.

Worse, the cellular chemistry during this quiet period that Forger’s model predicted would, in normal cells, lead quickly to cell death.

Skepticism doesn’t begin to describe what I was met with,” says Forger. “Experimentalists told me, ‘That’s crazy.’”

Researchers in the field simply assumed Forger’s model was wrong. Forger refined it and reworked it, and got similar results.

Meanwhile, his British colleagues began to probe the fact that there are two types of cells in the SCN, ones that have very strong molecular clocks and do the timekeeping, and others that behave more like normal brain cells.

While previous researchers had recorded the activity of all of the cells in the SCN, Belle and Piggins were able to set up an experiment using mice that would record only the activity of the clock cells. Their experimental results matched Forger’s predictions.

When we got the results, they were shocking,” Forger says. “They were dead on.”

The cells in the SCN that don’t keep time followed the pattern researchers were familiar with, active during the day, quiet at night.

The time-keeping cells went bananas in the morning and at night, but then during the day they stayed in a bizarre state of excitement during which they emitted very few impulses. Why these cells can stay alive in this state remains a mystery.

Forger has been down this path before. Another study of his, published in 2007, reversed the thinking on how gene mutations affect circadian rhythms within cells.

Scientists studying a hamster that had a malfunctioning internal clock (its daily rhythm lasted 20 hours instead of 24) found that it had a mutation in a gene called tau.

The fuzzy rodent was given the extremely appropriate name “Tau Mutant Hamster.

They thought Tau Mutant Hamster’s mutation caused an enzyme that helped cells keep time to be less active. Forger predicted that it would instead make the enzyme more active. Experiments later proved he was right.

Now Forger is turning his attention to the entire SCN. He thinks that math is the only way we can understand the sheer complexity of what is happening–neurotransmitters coming and going, protein clocks being built up and broken down, electricity bouncing around.

To piece it all together, you need more than intuition,” he says. “You need math to see what’s going on.”

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Growing Human Brain Cells In The Lab

When researchers like Gan find potential new drugs, they must be tested on human cells to confirm they can benefit patients. Historically, these tests have been conducted in cancer cells, which often don’t match the biology of human brain cells.

The problem is that brain cells from actual people can’t survive in a dish, so we need to engineer human cells in the lab,” explained Gan, senior investigator at the Gladstone Institutes. “But, that’s not as simple as it may sound.”

Many scientists use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to address this issue. IPSCs are made by reprogramming skin cells to become stem cells, which can then be transformed into any type of cell in the body.

Gan uses iPSCs to produce brain cells, such as neurons or glial cells, because they are relevant to neurodegenerative disease.




Human brain cells derived from iPSCs offer great potential for drug screening. Yet, the process for producing them can be complicated, expensive, and highly variable.

Many of the current methods produce cells that are heterogeneous, or different from one another, and this can lead to inconsistent results in drug screening.

In addition, producing a large number of cells is very costly, so it’s difficult to scale up for big experiments.

To overcome these constraints, Michael Ward, MD, PhD, had an idea.

A New Technique Is Born

I came across a new method to produce iPSCs that was developed at Stanford,” said Ward, a former postdoctoral scholar in Gan’s lab who is now an investigator at the National Institutes of Health.

I thought that if we could find a way to simplify and better control that approach, we might be able to improve the way we engineer human brain cells in the lab.”

Ward and his colleague Chao Wang, PhD, discovered a way to manipulate the genetic makeup of cells to produce thousands of neurons from a single iPSC. This meant that every engineered brain cell was now identical.

The team further improved the technique to create a simplified, two-step process. This allows scientists to precisely control how many brain cells they produce and makes it easier to replicate their results from one experiment to the next.

Their technique also greatly accelerates the process.

While it would normally take several months to produce brain cells, Gan and her team can now engineer large quantities of them within 1 or 2 weeks, and have functionally active neurons within 1 month.

The researchers realized this new approach had tremendous potential to screen drugs and to study disease mechanisms. To prove it, they tested it on their own research.

They applied their technique to produce human neurons by using iPSCs. Then, they developed a drug discovery platform and screened 1,280 compounds.

Their goal is to identify the compounds that could lower levels of the protein tau in the brain, which is considered one of the most promising approaches in Alzheimer’s research and could potentially lead to new drugs to treat the disease.

A Powerful Tool for the Entire Scientific Community

We have developed a cost-effective technology to produce large quantities of human brain cells in two simple steps,” summarized Gan.

By surmounting major challenges in human neuron-based drug discovery, we believe this technique will be adopted widely in both basic science and industry.

Word of this useful new technology has already spread, and people from different scientific sectors have come knocking on Gan’s door to learn about it.

Her team has shared the new method with scores of academic colleagues, some of whom had no experience with cell culture.

So far, they all successfully repeated the two-step process to produce their own cells and facilitate scientific discoveries.

Details of this new technique were also published on October 10, 2017, in the scientific journal Stem Cell Reports.

With some of the roadblocks out of the way, Gan hopes more discoveries will soon help the millions who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

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A Migraine May Change Your Brain

About 37 million Americans suffer from migraines, those incredibly painful and often debilitating headaches.

Though they’ve been known to knock a person out, migraines weren’t thought to permanently affect the brain, until now.

A study published in the journal Neurology suggests that migraines may indeed leave a mark.

Our review and meta-analysis study suggests that the disorder may permanently alter brain structure in multiple ways,” said study author Dr. Messoud Ashina, a neurologist at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

A migraine is a common type of headache in which throbbing pain is typically felt on just one side of the head.

Sufferers experience sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting. Women are three times more likely to be affected by migraines than men.




According to the American Migraine Foundation, migraines cost the United States more than $20 billion a year, both in direct medical expenses like doctor visits and medication and indirectly, when employees miss work resulting in lost productivity.

About 20% of migraine sufferers experience an aura, a warning symptom 20 minutes to an hour before a migraine begins.

It’s usually in the form of visual disturbances like wavy lines, dots or flashing lights, tingling in the face or arms, even difficulty speaking.

The study focused on three types of abnormalities that were detected by magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI. MRI tests use a magnetic field and radio wave energy to take pictures of organs inside the body.

They can detect problems that often cannot be seen with an X-ray or ultrasound imaging.

Researchers reviewed six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies to see whether migraine sufferers had an increased risk of brain lesions, white matter abnormalities, infarct-like lesions or brain volume changes in both the gray and white matter regions of the brain.

Infarct-like lesions, also called silent strokes, are changes neurologists usually see on MRI scans that look like minor strokes.

According to the study, the risk of white matter brain lesions increased 68% for those suffering migraines with aura, compared with non-migraine sufferers.

Those who suffered from migraines without aura saw that increased risk cut in half (34%), but they too could get lesions in the part of the brain that is made up of nerve fibers.

Researchers found that white matter abnormalities are not limited to migraines; they also occur in non-migraine headaches.

And people with migraines and migraines with aura were also more likely to have brain volume changes than those who don’t suffer from migraines. But what these white matter abnormalities lead to is still unclear.

That’s why Ashina says more long-term studies are needed.

Migraine affects about 10% to 15% of the general population and can cause a substantial personal, occupational and social burden,” Ashina said.

We hope that through more study, we can clarify the association of brain structure changes to attack frequency and length of the disease. We also want to find out how these lesions may influence brain function.

Though migraines might be associated with structural changes in the brain, there’s no cause for concern, Ashina determined.

“Studies of white matter changes showed no relationship to migraine frequency or cognitive status of patients.”

Dr. MaryAnn Mays, a staff neurologist at the Center for Headache & Pain at the Cleveland Clinic, who was not involved in the research, agreed.

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Why ‘Intelligence’ Is A Stupid Concept

Have you ever thought that you’re not intelligent enough to do something? That you’re not as smart as another person so you can’t succeed like they have?

Research is showing us that our attitude towards intelligence is an important factor in being able to achieve our goals.

One of the greatest myths is that the most successful people are the most intelligent.

I believe this is one of the most damaging myths people have.

It’s a myth that many people fall back on when they encounter a failure of some sort — i.e. that this failure is evidence that we aren’t the smartest person in the room.




For some reason we forget that the stereotypical image of an ‘intelligent person’ — perhaps a physicist or a surgeon, are in reality defined by pushing past constant failures as they slave away trying to solve a problem.

These people choose to learn from their failures until they find the solution they were seeking for.

Perhaps an argument can be made that true intelligence requires a particular attitude toward failure — namely that failure is a useful opportunity to pause, reflect, learn and re-tackle a problem.

One of my biggest issues with the modern day education system is the arbitrary delineation it creates between ‘intelligent’ and ‘non-intelligent’ students.

From an early age, we’re told that the students who perform the best are the ones who are ‘naturally gifted’ — that they are simply born more intelligent than the rest of us.

In reality, top performers either put in more work (i.e. hours of study) or have more efficient ways of studying (i.e. are more productive).

A 2013 study of 3,520 students found that the two biggest factors in achieving long-term academic success were motivation and study strategies — not ‘intelligence’.

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Why Some People Hear Color Or Taste Sounds?

Lead Researcher, ANU Research School of Psychology’s Dr Stephanie Goodhew, said the research found synesthetes had much stronger mental associations between related concepts.

For them words like ‘doctor’ and ‘nurse’ are very closely associated, where ‘doctor’ and ‘table’ are very unrelated. Much more so than for people without the condition,” she said.

The findings could help researchers better understand the mysteries of synesthesia, which Dr Goodhew said affects an estimated one in every 100 people.




Dr Goodhew said synesthetes have stronger connections between different brain areas, particularly between what we think of as the language part of the brain and the color part of the brain.

Those connections lead to a triggering effect, where a stimulus in one part of the brain would cause activity in another.

Things like hearing shapes, so a triangle will trigger an experience of a sound or a color, or they might have a specific taste sensation when they hear a particular sound,” she said.

One person reported that smells have certain shapes. For example the smell of fresh air is rectangular, coffee is a bubbly cloud shape and people could smell round or square.”

The research centered on measuring the extent that people with Synesthesia draw meaning between words.

Going in we were actually predicting that synesthetes might have a more concrete style of thinking that does not emphasize conceptual-level relations between stimuli, given that they have very rigid parings between sensory experiences.

We found exactly the opposite,” Dr Goodhew said.

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Five Best Popular Science Books

With the Juno spacecraft arriving at Jupiter, a piece of amber-enclosed dinosaur tail showing up in a Burmese market, a child being born of three parents and, of course, the unprecedented detection of “ripples” in space-time, the past year has been a fruitful one in scientific achievement and discovery.

Any of us without the knowhow might be totally lost if it weren’t for the talented writer-scientists who take the time to pen popular science books about their respective fields.

Popular science is a protean genre spanning hundreds of topics, and this article tries to reflect that fact – we have books on neuroscience, books on genetics, books that blend neuroscience with memoir, books that blend genetics with memoir, books on the octopus, books on time and books on black holes.

These are the best in popular science from the past year – books that will enlighten, entertain, terrify and make you feel bad about how little you remember from school.




1. Black Hole Blues: And Other Songs From Outer Space by Janna Levin

In this book, Janna Levin – like many of the authors on this list, a writer trapped in a scientist’s body – tells the story of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (or Ligo) and the long journey that led to the detection of Einstein’s hitherto theoretical gravitational waves.

Perhaps more than any author on this list, Levin is a master of storytelling: the programme’s origins, its purpose, its eccentric architects and its wider significance for humanity all feature in this book as themes, converging to form a novel-like narrative that keeps the reader hooked in awe page after page.

Black Hole Blues is a captivating study of the process of scientific discovery.

2. The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a physician, researcher, biologist, geneticist, oncologist, a few more -ists, and, importantly for us, an excellent writer.

Six years ago he published a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on cancer – The Emperor of all Maladies – in which he strove to expel the mythology around cancer, to make it less the colossal affliction we imagine it to be and instead show it as something that can and likely will be overcome by scientists.

He places the gene in a triumvirate of scientific ideas that dominated the twentieth century, alongside the atom and the byte.

Mukherjee’s immense knowledge of genetics and formidable fluency in prose shows that there are few people more suited to tackling a subject as complicated, delicate and indeed dangerous – the pseudoscience of genetics and race has often led to catastrophe – as that of the gene.

3. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived by Adam Rutherford

One of the most extraordinary things about this book is its sheer breadth. Rutherford, a writer and geneticist who has written previously on the subject, weaves from our genes a fascinating tapestry of human history from its most primitive origins to its sophisticated present, and beyond.

True to its title, Rutherford’s overview of genetics is brief: at 300 pages it is considerably shorter than Mukherjee’s, meaning that if you’re after just a quick though comprehensive survey of genetics, this is the book for you.

The writing is concise and often funny, and Rutherford never takes himself or his subject too seriously. It is one of those rare books that you’ll finish thinking you haven’t wasted a single second.

4. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Paul Kalanithi – a neurosurgeon by profession and philosopher by temperament – died of lung cancer in 2015 at the age of thirty-seven.

At university he studied biology before completing a postgraduate degree in English literature, and only then did he decide that while literature may offer some answers to life’s big questions, it offers little in the way of practical remedies.

And so he began his career in medicine. This book was written in the months leading to Kalanithi’s death, and he writes with an eloquence that befits his love of the literary.

The memoir follows him from his birth through his youth in a desert town through medical school, his residency and, finally, through his illness.

Kalanithi often ponders the big questions that led him to medicine in the first place: the origin of personality, the nature of neuroscience, his spiritual quandaries and his rediscovery of Christianity all feature.

Perhaps for the piercing prose alone, Kalanithi’s book is one of the few must-reads of 2016.

5. The Brain: The Story of You by David Eagleman

Of his previous work – which includes the best-selling Incognito – Eagleman has been praised for making otherwise inaccessible topics (brain surgery and the like) accessible to lowly laymen like us.

One of the charms of his latest book on the brain is Eagleman’s casual approach to his subject.

Like a quirky tour guide in a gallery he leads us around the cranium explaining the brain’s biological mechanisms, pondering the differences between the “brain” and “mind” and discussing questions about reality and consciousness that make the reader suffer from spells of existential doubt – well, we did, at least.

Another of the book’s core attractions is its wealth of mini-facts.

As Stephen Fry has commented, memorable facts pervade every chapter of this book, whether about the magnitude of our neural networks or the power of conversation in warding off Alzheimer’s.

If you want to boost your understanding of the brain, read this book.

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Blind Fish In Dark Caves Shed Light On The Evolution Of Sleep

Out of the approximately 3 billion letters of DNA that make up your genome, there are about a 100 letters that neither of your parents possess.

These are your own personal mutations. The machinery that copies DNA into new cells is very reliable, but it is not perfect. It makes errors at a rate equivalent to making a single typo for every 100 books filled with text.

The sperm and egg cells that fused to form you carried a few such mutations, and therefore so do you.

Changes to DNA are more likely to be disruptive than beneficial, simply because it is easier for changes to mess things up than to improve them.

This mutational burden is something that all life forms have to bear. In the long run, individuals that carry harmful mutations will, on average, produce fewer offspring than their peers.




Over many generations, this means that the mutation will dwindle in frequency. This is how natural selection is constantly ‘weeding out’ disruptive mutations from our genomes.

There is a flip side to this argument, and it is the story of the blind cave fish. If a mutation disrupts a gene that is not being used, natural selection will have no restoring effect.

This is why fish that adapt to a lifestyle of darkness in a cave tend to lose their eyes. There is no longer any advantage to having eyes, and so the deleterious mutations that creep in are no longer being weeded out.

Think of it as the ‘use it or lose it’ school of evolution.

A world without light is quite an alien place. There are many examples of fish that live in completely dark caves.

Remarkably, if you compare these fish to their relatives that live in rivers or in the ocean, you find that the cavefish often undergo a similar set of changes. Their eyes do not fully develop, rendering them essentially blind.

They lose pigmentation in their skin, and their jaws and teeth tend to develop in particular ways.

This is an example of what is known as convergent evolution, where different organisms faced with similar ecological challenges also stumble upon similar evolutionary solutions.

The changes mentioned above are all about appearance, but what about changes in behavior? In particular, when animals sleep, they generally line up with the day and night cycle.

In the absence of any daylight, how do their sleep patterns evolve?

A recent paper by Erik Duboué and colleagues addressed this question by comparing 4 groups of fish of the same species Astyanax mexicanus.

Three of the populations (the Pachón, Tinaja, and Molino) were blind cavefish that inhabited different dark caves, whereas the fourth was a surface-dwelling fish.

The authors defined sleep for their fish to be a period of a minute or more when the fish were not moving. They checked that this definition met the usual criteria.

Sleeping fish were harder to wake up, and fish that were deprived of sleep compensated by sleeping more over the next 12 hours (these are both situations that any college student is familiar with).

The researchers also tracked the speeds of all the fish, and found that, while they were awake, the cavefish moved faster or just as fast as the surface fish.

This means that it’s not that the cavefish are constantly sleep deprived and in a lethargic, sleepy state. They are just as wakeful as the surface fish (if not more so), and genuinely need less sleep.

These three cavefish populations all evolved independently, and yet they have converged on remarkably similar sleep patterns.

To study the genetics of this phenomenon, the researchers cross-bred the surface fish with the cavefish. The cave dwellers and surface fish all belong to the same species, which means that they can have viable offspring.

They found that the mixed offspring (Pachón x surface and Tinaja x surface) had a reduced need for sleep that was indistinguishable from that of their cave-dwelling parent.

Thus sleep reduction is clearly a genetic trait, and it is a dominant trait (Dominant traits are present in the offspring if they are inherited from just one parent. A recessive trait, on the other hand, will only be present if it is inherited from both parents.)

Unlocking the secrets of sleep is inherently cool science, and it also has the potential to help people suffering from sleep disorders.

Who knows, it may even lead to the superpower of doing away with sleep altogether.

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Hug Hormone Oxytocin Boosts Bonding By Releasing Cannabis-Like Molecules

Whichever persona you prefer – the love molecule, cuddle chemical or hug hormone – oxytocin plays a big role in bonding.

Spraying monkeys with the stuff, for example, has been found to positively affect their social behavior, making them more communicative and promoting interaction with others.

Among many other things, weed also exerts similar effects on human behavior, but how exactly it does this has been hazy.

Now, a new study is offering us clues, and a link between these two very different substances.

It turns out that oxytocin might make social interactions more rewarding and pleasurable by stimulating our own cannabinoid system.

According to the research, it does this by triggering the release of another wonderfully nicknamed chemical, the “bliss molecule” anandamide, coined as such due to the fact that the brain receptors it activates lead to increased motivation and happiness.




This is the first time that this marijuana-like neurotransmitter has been shown to contribute to the reward of being social, and also offers us further insight into how oxytocin acts on the brain.

Importantly, these findings could help us understand the mechanisms underlying certain social impairments, for example in those with autism, suggesting a possible avenue to explore for treatment.

Rewinding a little bit, endocannabinoids, like anandamide, are molecules our own body produces that act on the same system that cannabis does, binding to receptors on various cells throughout the body called the cannabinoid receptors.

Previous work has found that the endocannabinoid system is involved in regulating neuronal signaling from the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain region shown to be critical for the effects of oxytocin on social reward.

To scrutinize these links further, scientists from the University of California, Irvine looked at the brains of juvenile mice reared in groups that had been isolated from their peers for 24 hours, then either returned to the group or kept in isolation for a further three hours.

They found that social contact increased the release of anandamide in the NAc, whereas isolation had the opposite effect. The resulting cannabinoid receptor activation, they found, reinforced the rewards of social interaction.

Taking this one step further, the team wanted to see how oxytocin, known to reinforce both parental and social bonding, fits into this emerging story.

After stimulating oxytocin-producing cells in the brain, they noticed a subsequent boost in the mobilization of anandamide in the NAc.

But when they blocked oxytocin receptors with drugs, the same response was not observed.

Tying the results together, the team found that boosting anandamide levels by blocking its degradation with a drug promoted social reward, causing mice to spend more time interacting with others when compared to those given a placebo, which could have implications for those with social deficits, for example in autism.

We think that there is a disruption in cooperative oxytocin-anandamide signaling in autism,” lead researcher Daniele Piomelli told IFLScience. “

Animal models of autism have multiple disruptions in endocannabinoid signaling.

In these models, Piomelli said, increasing anandamide levels in the same way as before corrected social reward deficits.

This raises the possibility that similar effects could be achieved in humans, helping those with autism socialize more.

The study has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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People Smell Great! Human Sniffers Sensitive as Dogs’

As you read this, take a whiff. What smells do you detect? How do these smells affect how you feel?

It’s rare that people consciously take in the smells around them, but a new review argues that the human sense of smell is more powerful than it’s usually given credit for, and that it plays a bigger role in human health and behavior than many medical experts realize.

The fact is the sense of smell is just as good in humans as in other mammals, like rodents and dogs,” John McGann, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey and the author of the new review, said in a statement.




People often think of dogs and rats as the superior sniffers in the animal kingdom, but humans also have an extremely keen sense of smell, McGann argued in the review, which was published last year, May 11 in the journal Science.

In fact, humans can discriminate among 1 trillion different odors, McGann wrote, far more than a commonly cited claim that people can detect only about 10,000 different smells. [10 Things That Make Humans Special]

By overlooking humans’ keen smelling abilities, medicine may be missing a key component of human health, McGann said. S

mell influences human behavior, from stirring up memories to attracting sexual partners to influencing mood to shaping taste, he said.

It’s no coincidence that the French word for smell, “sentir,” also means to feel; emotion and smell are often intricately linked.

It’s true that humans have relatively smaller olfactory organs and fewer odor-detecting genes compared with other animals. However, the power of the human brain more than makes up for this.

When a person smells something, odor molecules bind to receptors in the nose.

These receptors send information about the molecules to the human olfactory bulb in the brain, which then sends signals to other areas of the brain to help identify scents.

This is different from the way smell works in dogs, McGann said. Dogs have a “pump” in their noses that’s designed to take in chemicals in liquid form for identification, he said.

Because the smelling mechanisms are so different, it’s hard to compare humans to dogs, McGann said.

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