One small step for man, one giant leap for mousekind.
Scientists have painstakingly mapped the connections in a tiny segment of the mouse’s brain. The stunningly intricate picture provides an unprecedented level of detail of an organ smaller than a pebble and lighter than the average cotton ball.
“At the end of the day, we want to understand the human brain. Understanding the mouse brain is an important step toward that goal,” Lydia Ng, senior director of technology at the nonprofit Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, told Live Science in an email.
The resulting 3D structure, called the Mouse Common Coordinate Framework, is the equivalent of leveling up from simple paper maps to a Google Maps or GPS for the mouse brain, Ng said.
“Maps of the brain have always been created in two dimensions, but even a stack of flat maps sitting on top of each other does not necessarily align with the complex three-dimensional nature of the brain,” neuroscientist Christof Koch, the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, said in a statement. [See Images of the Mouse Brain Up Close]
The new map, however, doesn’t just track the firing between different brain cells; it also allows researchers to visualize how different genes are expressed in teensy portions of the brain as well as the physical connections between anatomical structures in the brain.
To create this detailed map, researchers carefully measured and examined 1,675 mouse brains and then created a 3D image of an “average mouse brain.” From there, the scientists used fluorescently labeled brain cells from the mouse brain as clues to help draw the boundaries between different brain regions. Ultra-high-resolution images of individual brain cells were then translated into digital images.
The ultimate goal for this project, as well as for the the National Institutes of Health’s larger BRAIN Initiative, which helped fund the current project, is to create a detailed map of all the connections in the human brain. Though the mouse brain is an important first step, there are many more to go. The human brain weighs about 3.3 pounds (1.5 kilograms), whereas the mouse brain weighs just 0.02 ounces (0.5 grams) — or about the weight of a paper clip. What’s more, the mouse brain contains just 70 million neurons, whereas the human brain contains a whopping 86 billion neurons, according to a study published in 2012 in the journal Nature.
Any researcher interested in using the framework or looking at the data can do so at brain-map.org, Ng said.
Original article on Live Science.
A large global study of more than 12,000 first-time heart-attack patients found a strong link between the attack and what the patients were doing and feeling in the hour preceding the event.
The study, published in the journal Circulation, found that being angry or emotionally upset more than doubled the risk of suffering a heart attack. Performing heavy physical activity in a highly emotional state more than tripled the risk. The researchers compared people’s behavior in the 60 minutes before the onset of heart-attack symptoms with the same one-hour period 24 hours earlier.
The results, based on an analysis of heart-attack patients in 52 countries, were consistent regardless of other, traditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure and diet.
Intense physical activity and negative emotions can increase heart rate and blood pressure, which reduces the supply of blood and oxygen to the heart, the researchers said. This can cause arterial plaque to rupture and trigger an acute myocardial infarction, or heart attack, they said.
Previous studies have found links between heart-attack risk and anger, stress, physical activity—even extreme happiness. But these mostly involved a small number of subjects from Western countries, the researchers said.
Researchers at the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, analyzed data from patients who were examined and interviewed at 262 health centers around the world as part of a larger study. The patients, about three-quarters of whom were men, were 58 years old, on average.
In the hour before the first symptoms, 13.6 percent were engaged in heavy physical exertion, compared with 9.1 percent on the previous day. Feelings of anger or being emotionally upset were reported by 14.4 percent and 9.9 percent during the same periods, respectively. The majority of heart attacks occurred between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Legal cannabis sales are growing rapidly, but these states are unlikely to be seeing green anytime soon, if ever.
Marijuana’s expansion over the past two decades has been nothing short of phenomenal.
In the mid-1990s, Gallup’s national poll showed that only a quarter of respondents favored legalizing cannabis nationwide, and not a single state had approved the drug for medical or recreational use. Today, 25 states have legalized the use of medical marijuana, and an additional four — Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska — along with Washington, D.C., have legalized recreational marijuana.
Gallup’s 2015 poll shows that 58% of the American public now supports the nationwide legalization of marijuana. A separate CBS News poll the same year also found that 84% of the American public is in favor of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.
Marijuana sales are growing like a weed
It’s not just public support for marijuana that’s budding — sales are growing like a weed, too. According to a recently released report from investment firm Cowen & Co., the legal marijuana market is currently worth about $6 billion, with 8 million daily users and 32 million adults who’ve admitted to using cannabis before. By 2026, Cowen & Co. is predicting legal marijuana sales could grow to $50 billion, which works out to a compound annual growth rate of almost 24% over the next decade.
Marijuana’s growth has businesses and investors seeing green, but it’s also been a major boon to select states and local governments, with Colorado being the best example.
Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000, with voters choosing to allow for the sale of recreational marijuana in 2012. Over the trailing 12-month period in Colorado, more than $1 billion in legal marijuana has been sold. Furthermore, based on legal cannabis sales figures from 2015, Colorado reaped approximately $135 million in tax revenue and licensing fees that are being used to fund education, law enforcement, and drug abuse programs in the state. It’s figures like these that have residents and legislatures in states such as California excited about the upcoming elections.
Speaking of elections, residents in nine states will be going to the polls next month to decide whether or not cannabis will become legal either recreationally or medically in their state.
Like I said, marijuana’s growth has been phenomenal.
These 14 states may never legalize marijuana
Yet, in spite of this rapid growth, some states look unlikely to participate. Of the 25 remaining states that don’t have a medical marijuana law on their books, 14 may never wind up legalizing marijuana. These states are:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
By Kenneth Chang
Venus is not a placid paradise — that much we know. In addition to searing surface temperatures, wind in the upper atmosphere howls as fast as 250 mph, carrying clouds around the planet once every four days.
Yet Venus itself spins very slowly: one rotation every 243 Earth days — in the wrong direction, no less, opposite to almost every other body in the solar system.
On the whole, the atmosphere on Earth rotates about the same speed as the planet. So why does the air on slow-spinning Venus speed around so much faster than the planet itself?
The Japanese space probe Akatsuki, now in orbit around Venus, seeks to solve the mystery of so-called super-rotation.
That is not just an idle trivia question for planetary scientists. Computer models of our own weather fail when applied to Venus, and knowledge of the planet’s workings could better our understanding of Earth’s.
‘‘We don’t know what is the missing point in meteorology,’’ said Masato Nakamura, Akatsuki’s project manager.
In recent years, Venus has been a backwater of planetary exploration, even though it is much closer in size to Earth than is Mars. For a long time, scientists imagined there could be a habitable tropical paradise beneath Venus’ thick clouds.
In the late 1950s, intense thermal emissions, measured by a radio telescope on Earth, told a different story. Venus broils.
The average surface temperature is more than 850 degrees — an extreme demonstration of the heat-trapping prowess of carbon dioxide, the primary constituent of the Venusian atmosphere. Clouds of sulfuric acid make it an even less appealing place to visit.
In the 1990s, NASA’s Magellan spacecraft precisely mapped the topography of Venus through radar. Except for a few flybys by spacecraft on the way to somewhere else, NASA has not returned to Venus, although the agency is considering two modest proposals.
A European mission, Venus Express, studied the planet from 2006 to 2014, discovering among other things a frigid layer of atmosphere, minus 280 degrees Fahrenheit at an altitude of 75 miles, sandwiched between two warmer layers.
But now Akatsuki, which entered orbit last December, has begun its work. Takehiko Satoh, one of the mission scientists, said that one of ‘‘the most exciting, most surprising results’’ so far came almost immediately after the spacecraft arrived.
The camera that captures long-wavelength infrared light from the cloud tops discovered an arc-shaped white streak that stretched 6,000 miles from nearly the south pole to nearly the north pole.
Curiously, this giant atmospheric feature does not move with the atmosphere. ‘‘It seems to be fixed to the ground,” Satoh said.
The arc sits above Aphrodite Terra, a highland region about the size of Africa that rises up nearly 3 miles from the surface. Scientists working on data from the Venus Express reported a similar finding in July.The small spacecraft — the main body is a box a bit bigger than a refrigerator — carries five cameras, collecting light at different wavelengths to monitor the Venusian atmosphere at different altitudes.
In another experiment, scientists will observe how the radio signal from the spacecraft to Earth is distorted when it passes through the atmosphere. That will reveal temperature, abundance of sulfuric acid vapor and other properties. By observing the atmosphere at different altitudes, they can detect wavelike features that rise and fall, like blobs in a lava lamp.That Akatsuki, which means ‘‘dawn’’ in Japanese, is there at all is the result of ingenuity and perseverance.
It launched in May 2010 and arrived at Venus seven months later. But when its main engine failed to fire properly, it sailed right past the planet. ‘‘It was a very sad moment,’’ Satoh said.
Within a day, Satoh said, calculations indicated that in six years, Akatsuki, in orbit around the sun instead of Venus, could meet up with Venus again. But it was not clear the spacecraft still would be able to slow down and enter orbit.
An investigation found that a valve in the engine had leaked, leading to the formation of salts that fused it shut. The engine, as it fired, had overheated beyond repair.
Akatsuki still had the maneuvering thrusters that were to be used after it entered orbit. They were not as powerful as the broken engine, but they could apply enough force to slow it down enough so that Venus’ gravity could capture it.The Akatsuki’s orbit is different from the one originally envisioned. Instead of being synchronized to the spinning atmosphere, which would have allowed scientists to better track small changes, the spacecraft now loops around Venus in a large elliptical orbit.
That provides different benefits. Instead of intently staring at one spot, seeing the smallest changes, scientists are now able to see what happens on a global scale, although they will miss some of the details.
Akatsuki is to continue operating until at least April 2018, depending on how much fuel it has left. ‘‘We know at least we have one kilogram of fuel,’’ said Nakamura, likening the uncertainty to an imprecise fuel gauge in a car.
If it turns out that Akatsuki has more, the spacecraft could continue operating for perhaps up to six years, he said.
China plans to become the first nation to land a probe on the far side of the Moon, according toXinhua News Agency, the country’s official press organization.
Launching possibly as early as 2018, the mission represents the next step in China’s plans to explore the Moon with robotic probes and, within the next decade, to return a couple of kilograms of lunar material to Earth. The proposed Chang’e-4 probe follows the successful soft landing of the Chang’e-3 probe on the near side of the Moon in December 2013.
Although the new probe was built as the engineering backup to the Chang’e-3 lander, Chinese officials said the structure could handle a larger payload. China plans to use the probe to study “geological conditions” on the far side of the moon. The Chang’e probes are named after the Chinese goddess of the Moon.China has also offered foreign countries the opportunity to participate in its lunar exploration programs. In contrast to NASA, Europe and Russia have both signaled their interest in further studying the Moon and likely landing humans there, before moving on to Mars. Many countries and businesses see potential value in ice at the lunar poles and rare minerals in the lunar soil. The US Congress recently passed a law to legalize the mining of these resources.
Humans have studied the far side of the Moon from above since 1959, when the Soviet Union’s Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first grainy images of its pockmarked surface. But no humans or robotic spacecraft have yet landed there.
Dwight Schrute hands Michael Scott a clean urinalysis sample on The Office | NBC
Marijuana and drug testing: Will you pass?
- Occasional users (Once per week or less): Stays in system for 1-5 days after the last use
- Regular users (More than once per week): Stays in system for 1-3 weeks after last use
- Heavy users (Multiple times per day, or regular use for a prolonged period of time): Can stay in system up to 4-6 weeks after last use
Of course, the safest option is to abstain from marijuana use completely in the weeks leading up to a drug test, so you don’t need to have an uncomfortable conversation with your boss or potential HR manager. Even if you’re using marijuana within the confines of your state and local laws, a positive test result could spell trouble for your career.
.Huge Savings on Diabetic Supplies!
Paris (AFP) – Scientists Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.
Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water — a key ingredient for life.
The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.
“We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.
“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he told AFP.
An exoplanet is any planet outside our Solar System.
Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University London, described the find as the “experience of a lifetime”.
Working with European Southern Observatory telescopes in the north Chilean desert, his team used the so-called Doppler method to detect Proxima b and describe its properties.
The professional star-gazers spent 60 consecutive days earlier this year looking for signs of gravitational pull on its host star, Proxima Centauri.
Regular shifts in the star’s light spectrum — repeating every 11.2 days — gave a tantalising clue.
They revealed that the star alternately moved towards and away from our Solar System at the pace of a leisurely stroll, about five kilometres (three miles) per hour.
– Goldilocks zone –
After cross-checking an inconclusive 2000-2014 dataset and eliminating other possible causes, the researchers determined that the tug of an orbiting planet was responsible for this tiny to-and-fro.
“Statistically, there is no doubt,” Anglada-Escude told journalists in a briefing.
“We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri.”
Proxima b is a mere four light years from the Solar System, meaning that it is essentially in our back yard on the scale of our galaxy, the Milky Way.
It has a mass around 1.3 times that of Earth, and orbits about seven million kilometres (4.35 million miles) from its star.
A planet so near to our Sun — 21 times closer than Earth — would be an unlivable white-hot ball of fire.
But Proxima Centauri is a so-called red dwarf, meaning a star that burns at a lower temperature.
As a result, the newly discovered planet is in a “Goldilocks” sweet spot: neither so hot that water evaporates, nor so cold that it freezes solid.
But liquid water is not the only essential ingredient for the emergence of life.
An atmosphere is also required, and on that score the researchers are still in the dark.
It all depends, they say, on how Proxima b evolved as a planet.
“You can come up with formation scenarios that end up with and Earth-like atmosphere, a Venus-like atmosphere” — 96 percent carbon dioxide — “or no atmosphere at all,” said co-author Ansgar Reiners, an expert on “cold” stars at the University of Goettingen’s Institute of Astrophysics in Germany.
Computer models suggest the planet’s temperature, with an atmosphere, could be “in the range of minus 30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) on the dark side, and 30C (80F) on the light side,” Reiners told journalists.
Like the Moon in relation to Earth, Proxima b is “tidally locked,” with one face always exposed to its star and the other perpetually in shadow.
Emerging life forms would also have to cope with ultraviolet and X-rays bombarding Proxima b 100 times more intensely than on Earth.
– Search for life –
An atmosphere would help deflect these rays, as would a strong magnetic field.
But even high doses of radiation do not preclude life, especially if we think outside the box, scientists say.
“We have to be very open-minded as to what we call ‘life’,” Jean Schneider, an expert on exoplanets at the Observatoire de Paris, told AFP.
Some 3,500 exoplanets have been discovered since the first confirmed sighting in 1995.
Most of these distant worlds — like our own Jupiter and Neptune — are composed of gas, an inhospitable environment for life.
Even the 10 percent that do have rocky surfaces are mostly too cold or too hot to host water in liquid form.
And — until today — the handful that are in a temperate zone are effectively beyond reach.
Last year, for example, NASA unveiled Kepler 452b, a planet about 60 percent larger than Earth that could have active volcanoes, oceans, sunshine like ours, and a year lasting 385 days.
But at a distance of 1,400 light-years, humankind would have little hope of reaching this Earth-twin any time soon.
By comparison, Proxima b is a stone’s throw away, though still too far away for humans to visit with present-generation chemical rockets.
“This is a dream for astronomers if we think about follow up observations,” said Reiners.
Staci Gruber vividly remembers her first hit of marijuana, back when she was in college. It made her so paranoid, she locked herself in a bathroom. She couldn’t decide whether to remain in hiding or to run. But she knew she’d never try pot again.
She didn’t lose interest in the drug, however. Today, she runs the 2-year-old Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery, or MIND, project at McLean Hospital in this suburb of Boston. With cognitive testing and neuroimaging, MIND is conducting a longitudinal study of medical marijuana.
“There’s a lot we don’t know about long-term effects, and that’s what I’m here to find out,” Gruber said.
Gruber, 49, has already made her mark on the field.
She ran a small study, published in 2013, that found teenagers and young adults who smoked marijuana were more likely to exhibit impulsive behavior than their peers and were more likely to have certain changes in the brain’s white matter. A follow-up study found that those changes couldreorganize brain regions associated with inhibitions. This year, Gruber’s research team also found that chronic recreational users of pot had poorer cognitive and executive functioning, particularly if they began using marijuana as teens.
MIND’s current work involves adults who are legally permitted to use marijuana-based products for medical conditions. The researchers are particularly interested in the non-psychoactive components of the marijuana plant, such as cannabidiol, an ingredient in many preparations of medical marijuana.
“We have this one word, marijuana, which we think means every part of the plant, and it doesn’t. The cannabinoids I study aren’t even the ones that get you high,” Gruber said. “But whether you’re for medical marijuana or against it, what we really need is information.”
Marijuana has been studied before. But previous research has focused on the cognitive effects of smoking pot recreationally. Earlier studies of medical marijuana have looked mostly at efficacy — how well it treats symptoms of conditions like multiple sclerosis, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
Gruber and her colleagues, by contrast, are trying to determine the long- and short-term impact of medical marijuana on cognition, brain structure and function, quality of life, sleep, and other clinical measures.
“[This] is a primary concern for patients considering cannabinoid treatment, and it may have implications for public policy,” Gruber said.
Peering into the brain
The first phase of the MIND study is observational. Before patients begin their treatment, Gruber and her colleagues establish a baseline — using imaging, interviews, and task performance tests — to see what patients’ brains look like before they use medical marijuana.
The patients then record how much marijuana they’re using, and how often. At intervals of three, nine, 12, 18, and 24 months, MIND researchers conduct more tests, brain scans, and interviews to measure the effects of the cannabis on their brain structures, cognition, and daily life.
This is the part of Gruber’s research that will be most valuable, said Madeline Meier, a marijuana researcher at the University of Arizona.
“The most important goal right now is to obtain high-quality data on the potential harms and benefits of cannabis,” Meier said.
There are currently 30 study participants; Gruber plans to enroll up to 200. A separate MIND study will examine military veterans who use cannabinoids.
“People drive two to three hours sometimes to get [here for] the study,” Gruber said. “They’re really committed. They really want to know what effect this will have on them.”
As they wait for long-term results, MIND researchers have made a few interim discoveries. They have found, for example, that marijuana could possibly ease symptoms for people with bipolar disorder and that a medication for strokes and Alzheimer’s disease may reverse the cognitive effects of chronic recreational marijuana use.
Gruber’s earlier findings, raising red flags about the dangers of recreational pot smoking, have caught the eye of some activists, like the Seattle-based drug prevention program SAMA, short for Science and Management of Addictions.
“We brought her out here because she had done this great research on adolescents and THC,” said SAMA president Kim Brackett. “We call her ‘the rock star scientist.’ She has a very nice way of translating scientific information in a way that non-scientists can understand, from grandparents to 8-year-olds.”
New interest in funding research
The patients in MIND’s studies bring their own marijuana products, which Gruber’s team analyzes for potency. Studying marijuana can be challenging because the federal Drug Enforcement Administration classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug, a category reserved for substances with a high potential for addiction and no medicinal value. The DEA recently considered changing that classification — but decided not to.
As a result, the federal government is currently the only approved source of cannabis for clinical trials of medicinal marijuana. “But that’s not what people are using,” said Francesca Filbey, who researches marijuana at the University of Texas at Dallas. “The only way science can study what people do is to let them do it.”
Gruber, Filbey, and several other researchers have formed a consortium, dubbed IDEAA, to pool their research data. Their goal is to make their data widely available, and to get more funding for marijuana research.
“We also hope to do some joint projects — pun intended — that can get funding,” Gruber said. “People are warming up to the idea of marijuana as medicine and funding is opening up.”
For now, Gruber’s project is funded with private donations. The first one came in 2014 when MIND launched with a $500,000 gift to McLean Hospital from Gruber’s wife, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell. The two married in 2006, having met when Cornwell visited McLean to research a book.
“She was asking a lot of really good questions,” said Gruber. “Then I found out she wanted to meet and talk more. We went out for dinner and ended up talking about neuroscience until 2 o’clock in the morning.”
Gruber first came to McLean Hospital in the 1990s to work as a lab assistant while completing two undergraduate degrees at schools 10 miles apart. She majored in psychology at Tufts University in suburban Boston. She was also studying vocal performance and jazz at the New England Conservatory of Music.
“I spent most of those years just running,” Gruber said, shaking her head with the memory. “You look back and wonder, ‘How did I ever do that? I could never do that now.’ I guess that’s what’s great about being young.”
While in college, Gruber landed an internship at McLean in a lab studying the effects of marijuana on college students. “From there,” she said, with a wait-for-it grin, “I was hooked.”
She continued working at McLean while earning graduate degrees in psychology and experimental cognitive neuroscience at Tufts and at Harvard, where she is now an associate professor.
‘It takes emotion and soul’
While Gruber has always loved music, she’s only recently fully embraced that side of herself.
“When I was little, I used to sing in the closet because I was terrified that I wasn’t any good,” she said. “But then I had this music teacher who said, ‘Hey you, you should have a solo.'”
At the conservatory, she fell in love with jazz singing, which she said resonated with her much more than classical arias.
“If you’re not feeling what you’re doing, what’s the point?” she said. “And that’s true in science, too. You can scientifically break down all these parts of music, like tone and pitch, but it takes emotion and a soul to make it real. In science, you can have all the findings in the world, but if you can’t communicate them, what good are they?”
Today, Gruber has a home studio and a Youtube channel for her music, which includes covers of popular songs along with her own compositions. And she has recorded two CDs.
“It’s okay to not be comfortable 100 percent of the time,” Gruber added. “You have to put yourself out there, to sing and be true and be you.”
That is no more than what she asks of study subjects, she explained.
“The whole point of this is getting people to tell the truth, sometimes about illegal activity, so they have to trust you,” she said. “I don’t know that I would be able to do studies like this if I couldn’t connect with people.”