Poor concentration: Poverty reduces brainpower needed for navigating other areas of life

A collaborative study from researchers at Princeton University, the University of Warwick, and Harvard University have studied the effects of scarcity on decision making and cognitive function, and their findings may change the way we tackle issues of poverty.

Published in the journal Science, the study presents a unique perspective regarding the causes of persistent poverty. The researchers suggest that being poor may keep a person from concentrating on the very avenues that would lead them out of poverty. A person’s cognitive function is diminished by the constant and all-consuming effort of coping with the immediate effects of having little money, such as scrounging to pay bills and cut costs. Thusly, a person is left with fewer “mental resources” to focus on complicated, indirectly related matters such as education, job training and even managing their time.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that pressing financial concerns had an immediate impact on the ability of low-income individuals to perform on common cognitive and logic tests. On average, a person preoccupied with money problems exhibited a drop in cognitive function similar to a 13-point dip in IQ, or the loss of an entire night’s sleep.

[…]

"Previous views of poverty have blamed poverty on personal failings, or an environment that is not conducive to success," she [corresponding author Jiaying Zhao] said. "We’re arguing that the lack of financial resources itself can lead to impaired cognitive function. The very condition of not having enough can actually be a cause of poverty."

Read the full article here.
Read the published article in Science here. (doi: 10.1126/science.1238041)

(Photo credit)

Musicians’ appearances matter more than their sound

The findings, reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by social psychologist Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London, may be embarrassing and even shocking to music lovers. The vast majority of participants in Tsay’s experiments — around 83% of both untrained participants and professional musicians — insisted at the outset that sound was their key criterion for assessing video and audio recordings of performances.
Yet it wasn’t. The participants were presented with recordings of the three finalists in each of ten prestigious international competitions, and were asked to guess the winner. With just sound, or sound and video, novices and experts both guessed right at about the same level as chance (33% of the time), or a little less. But with silent video alone, the success rate for both was about 46–53%. The experts did no better than the novices. (Nature News)

Read the article by Tsay: “Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance.” doi: 10.1073/pnas.1221454110
(Photo via flickr)

Musicians’ appearances matter more than their sound

The findings, reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by social psychologist Chia-Jung Tsay of University College London, may be embarrassing and even shocking to music lovers. The vast majority of participants in Tsay’s experiments — around 83% of both untrained participants and professional musicians — insisted at the outset that sound was their key criterion for assessing video and audio recordings of performances.

Yet it wasn’t. The participants were presented with recordings of the three finalists in each of ten prestigious international competitions, and were asked to guess the winner. With just sound, or sound and video, novices and experts both guessed right at about the same level as chance (33% of the time), or a little less. But with silent video alone, the success rate for both was about 46–53%. The experts did no better than the novices. (Nature News)

Read the article by Tsay: “Sight over sound in the judgment of music performance.” doi: 10.1073/pnas.1221454110

(Photo via flickr)

Streptococcus pneumoniae (“pneumococcus”)

Streptococcus pneumoniae, or pneumococcus, is a Gram-positive, alpha-hemolytic, aerotolerant anaerobic member of the genus Streptococcus. A significant human pathogenic bacterium, S. pneumoniae was recognized as a major cause of pneumonia in the late 19th century, and is the subject of many humoral immunity studies. (wiki)

(Photo via the ASM Microbe Library)

Different brain organization in autistic children improves math skills
In an article to be published in Biological Psychiatry, Stanford researchers show that autistic children have remarkable mathematical and problem solving abilities. The study demonstrated that autistic children perform better on a numerical problem solving task compared to typically developing children and that this improved performance is correlated with activation of an area of the brain that is important for visual processing (specifically, areas around the ventral temporal-occipital cortex). Moreover, autistic children employ a complex problem solving strategy called decomposition. The researchers suggest that the brain organization of high-functioning autistic individuals allow them to approach mathematical problems in a more advanced way than their typically developing peers do. This finding has implications for the education and development of children with autism and may allow them to use their problem solving skills in a future career.
Read the full article: “Brain Organization Underlying Superior Mathematical Abilities in Children with Autism.” doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.06.018
(image source)

Different brain organization in autistic children improves math skills

In an article to be published in Biological Psychiatry, Stanford researchers show that autistic children have remarkable mathematical and problem solving abilities. The study demonstrated that autistic children perform better on a numerical problem solving task compared to typically developing children and that this improved performance is correlated with activation of an area of the brain that is important for visual processing (specifically, areas around the ventral temporal-occipital cortex). Moreover, autistic children employ a complex problem solving strategy called decomposition. The researchers suggest that the brain organization of high-functioning autistic individuals allow them to approach mathematical problems in a more advanced way than their typically developing peers do. This finding has implications for the education and development of children with autism and may allow them to use their problem solving skills in a future career.

Read the full article: “Brain Organization Underlying Superior Mathematical Abilities in Children with Autism.” doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.06.018

(image source)

Neuron visualized using confocal fluorescence microscopy

Primary neuronal cultures stained for Bornavirus antigens and Tetanus toxin. Our goal was to determine which axonal transport pathway is used by Bornavirus for its efficient spread in neurons. Here, we tested the hypothesis that Bornavirus may use the same transport pathway as tetanus toxin. To this end, primary culture of neurons were infected with Bornavirus, follow by incubation with fluorescent tetanus toxin (red). After fixation of the cultures, Bornavirus phosphoprotein (green) and ßIII tubulin (blue), a neuronal marker, were detected by immunofluorescence analysis. LSM 710, Caroline Charlier and Daniel Dunia, CPTP Toulouse, France

(Image source: Zeiss Microscopy)

Let’s talk about sex… determination.

What determines biological sex? The simple answer to that is: It depends on whether or not the Y sex chromosome is present. XX = female, XY = male. But it can get more complicated than that because it’s not the Y chromosome per se that makes a male, male; it’s the SRY gene found on the Y chromosome that determines biological sex. How do we know this? The deletion of the SRY gene from the Y chromosome results in an XY female with XY gonadal dysgenesis or Swyer syndrome. On the other hand, if the SRY gene is translocated (i.e. moved) onto an X chromosome, the individual will have XX male syndrome. This also means that having an Y chromosome, no matter how many X chromosomes are present (as in Klinefelter syndrome, which leads to XXY males) will lead to phenotypic males.


Photo: Karyotype of a male with Klinefelter syndrome (source)

Read more:
SRY gene
XY gonadal dysgenesis
XX male syndrome
Klinefelter syndrome

Things I Find in Science Literature #1: Martians

Aguzzi A, Rajendran L. The Transcellular Spread of Cytosolic Amyloids, Prions, and Prionoids. Neuron.2009 Dec 24;64(6):783-90.

Imagine that you are a neuroscientist vacationing on Mars. One day you encounter a colony of Martians that, as it happens, look similar to water bottles. The Martians are highly distressed and seek your advice, as their community is plagued by an enigmatic transmissible disease. Intrigued, you agree to help.

PubMed

Techniques: H&E staining

Histology, the study of tissues, requires a number of techniques to visualize the otherwise transparent structures of cells and tissues. One way to do this is to stain the tissue using dyes such as haematoxylin and eosin (H&E). Haematoxylin is a blue dye used to stain basophilic structures, which are often acidic (such as the nucleus), whereas the red eosin stains eosinophilic structures, which are often basic (such as the cytoplasm). Structures stained with haematoxylin appear purple in slides, and eosin-stained structures are pinkish. (wiki)

Photo: H&E stain of a primate sweat gland. Image courtesy of Spike Walker, Wellcome Images.

The upper left side shows an area of (empty) fat cells surrounded by collagen fibres. The lower right side contains six sections of a coiled sweat gland and three excretory ducts. The columnar cells forming the wall of the sweat gland secrete the solutes, these are interdispersed with myosecretory cells (triangular red shapes particularly visible in gland at far right) that can contract to squeeze the secretion out of the lumen of the gland into the excretory duct. (x)

Butterfly wing, imaged with confocal correlative microscopy

Courtesy of Kathleen L. Prudic, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Yale University; Jeffrey L. Caplan and Kirk J. Czymmek, Bioimaging Center, Delaware Biotechnology Institute (x)

scinerds:

pennyfournasa:

Help Us Reach The Threshold Of 25,000 Signatures By January 4th To Get A Response From The White House!

Please Sign The White House Petition To Increase NASA’s Budget:
https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/increase-budget-nasa/JHhPNStY

“NASA’s annual budget is half a penny on your tax dollar. For twice that—a penny on a dollar—we can transform the country” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

http://www.reddit.com/r/space/comments/15x5tm/reddit_can_you_help_us_reach_25000_signatures_for/


Come on scinerds, let’s do some midnight miracles. 25,000 signatures before the 4th/ tomorrow? We’re going to have to do a lot of reblogging and signing.

Go go go go go! 

Even if you’re not a science nerd like I am, you should still sign this petition. Why? Because NASA impacts your daily life. Do you or someone you know enjoy the following things?

You have NASA to thank for developing the technology that led to these products, and you can thank them by signing this petition! I’ve already signed it; now it’s your turn!