Although the adult brain is perceived as largely fixed, this concept is receiving increased scrutiny. One way in which the brain can dynamically change in response to repeated stimuli is by altering the speed of conductivity. Oligodendrocytes are a major cell type allowing for the increased or reduced insulation of neuronal axons, through alterations in myelination. One novel way to measure these changes is through the non-invasive method of diffusion magnetic resonance imaging. This article will provide an overview of the current state of research, and provide clues as to how oligodendrocytes are mediating dynamic white matter alterations.
We argue that a theory of the evolution of Empathizing (E) and Systemizing (S) needs first to clarify that these are personality traits, as distinct from cognitive abilities. The theory should explain both the observed reciprocity of, and the sexual difference between, E and S in a context of the historical emergence of these traits and their balance in relation to local selection pressures. We suggest that the baseline state is that (since humans are social animals) ancestral human hunter gatherers are assumed to be relatively High Empathizers, lower in Systemizing: thus more interested in people than in things. Changes related to the development of agriculture and technology meant that it became economically useful for some men to become more interested in ‘things’ than in people, as a motivation for them to learn and practice skills that were vital to personal and (secondarily) social survival, reproduction and expansion. This selection pressure applied most strongly to men since in the sexual division of labour it was typically men’s role to perform such tasks. We further hypothesize that High Systemizing men were rewarded for their socially vital work by increased resources and high status. Because marriages were arranged in traditional societies mainly by parental choice (and the role of parental choice was probably increased by agriculture), it is presumed that the most valued women, that is young and healthy women thereby having high reproductive potential, were differentially allocated to be wives of economically successful High Systemizers. Such unions of economically successful High Systemizing men with the most reproductively valuable women would be expected to lead to greater-than-average reproductive success, thereby amplifying the population representation of genes that cause high systematizing in the population. This hypothesis makes several testable predictions.
Hi Reddit, My name is Andrey Rzhetsky, professor of medicine and director of the Conte Center for Computational Neuropsychiatric Genomics at the University of Chicago. I’m interested in how genetic and environmental factors combine to make people sick. To study this, I use mathematical modeling to look for insights in very large collections of data. For example, I’ve analyzed 150 million U.S. electronic medical records (all anonymous, of course) to examine the links between autism and environment. We found hotspots across the U.S., which we hope will give us insight into causes and prevention. We are now looking at specific environmental factors that might have correlations to autism, as well as in other diseases like bipolar disorder. We also apply large-scale data modeling to other topics. For example, my colleagues and I recently text-mined all of PubMed to identify research strategies that might maximize scientific discovery and return on public investment. You can read about some examples of our work here: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/more-evidence-environmental-exposures-contribute-to-autism/ http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2015/09/15/improving-the-allocation-of-biomedical-research-resources-with-big-data/ http://www.ci.uchicago.edu/press-releases/scientific-research-conservative-could-be-accelerated Thank you very much for wonderful questions. Apologies for not answering all of them! I have to go now, but thanks Reddit, it’s been a lot of fun!!”
Hi Reddit, My name is Lisa Jones-Engel and I am a Senior Research Scientist at the University of Washington. For nearly two decades my research team has focused on the infectious agents that are transmitted at the increasingly porous human-primate interface in Asia. And my name is Stacey Schultz-Cherry and I am a Full Member (Professor) at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital where my research focuses on the pathogenesis of influenza virus and enteric viruses, like Astroviruses, especially in high-risk populations. My name is Erik Karlsson and I am a Postdoctoral Research Associate at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital where my research focuses on host factors, especially nutrition, that affect the pathogenesis and evolution of influenza virus and enteric viruses. My name is Christopher Small and I am the Head Data Scientist at pol.is a startup applying data visualization and machine learning to making sense of large scale conversations. I also do distributed systems and web app development consulting as ThoughtNode Software. Before all that, I worked with Erick Matsen at Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, studying metagenomics and molecular viral epidemiology. Astroviruses are leading causes of diarrhea in children under the age of 2, immune-compromised populations and the elderly. You can get them from infected people but also through contaminated food and water. They also appear to be causing encephalitis in high-risk populations. Although we knew that Astroviruses were found in lots of different birds and animals, we never thought human viruses could infect animals or vice versa. We thought infections were species-specific (i.e. only human viruses could infect humans). That changed in 2009 when we began finding viruses in humans that were genetically more similar to animal viruses. That’s where our recent publication titled “Non-Human Primates Harbor Diverse Mammalian and Avian Astroviruses Including Those Associated with Human Infections” in PLOS Pathogens provided important new data. For the study, we sampled 879 urban, temple, captive and wild primates in Bangladesh and Cambodia. We found that 8% of primates were infected with diverse mammalian and avian Astroviruses, including those previously only known to infect humans. Clearly this exemplifies One Health and how infectious diseases of humans can impact animals we contact and potentially vice versa. We will be answering your questions about primates and Astroviruses at 1pm ET – Ask Us Anything!
Hi Reddit, We’re Margaret Kosmala and Koen Hufkens at Harvard University and Josh Gray at Boston University. We’re part of a research group that has been putting automated cameras on weather towers and other elevated platforms to study the the seasonal timing of changes in plants, shrubs, and trees – called ‘phenology’. Because this timing of when plants leaf, flower, and fruit is very sensitive to changes in weather, plant phenology alerts us to changing climate patterns. Our network of about 300 cameras (’PhenoCams’) take pictures of vegetated landscapes every half hour, every day, all year round. (That’s a lot of pictures!) With the data from these images we can figure the relationships between plant phenology and local weather and then predict the effects of future climate using models. We also use images from satellites to broaden the extent of our analyses beyond the 300 specific sites where we have cameras. And we use citizen science to help turn our PhenoCam images into usable data, through our Season Spotter project. Anyone can go to Season Spotter and answer a few short questions about an image to help us better interpret the image. Right now we are running a “spring challenge” to classify 9,500 images of springtime. With the results, we will be able to pinpoint the first and last days of spring, which will help calibrate climate change models. UPDATE: We’re done with our Season Spotter spring images, thanks! Since it’s fall in half the world, we’ve loaded up our fall images. We have another 9,700 of those to classify, as well. We’ll be back at 1 pm EDT (10 am PDT, 6 pm UTC) to answer your questions; we’re looking forward to talking to you about climate change, plants, and public participation in science! UPDATE 1 pm Eastern: We’re now answering questions! UPDATE 3 pm Eastern: Josh has to leave for a meeting. But Koen and Margaret will stick around and answer some more questions. Ask away if you have more of them. UPDATE 5 pm Eastern: Koen and I are done for the day, and we’ve had a lot of fun. Thank you all for so many insightful and interesting questions! We’ll try to get to more of the ones we missed tomorrow.
The following document is the approximate transcript for a directed discussion on the topic of work and family balance. The audience contained mostly professionals in chemistry (academia and industry) but also science educators and magazine editors. The discussion was held at the Pacifichem Conference, 2015, in Honolulu, Hawai’i, USA. The discussion was preceded by a 7 minute slideshow aimed at describing the genesis of the discussion and the aims of the discussion. The transcript represents important information from approximately 10 participants on trends relating to family demographics amongst scientists and how institutions are interacting with the changing demograpics of their employees. The names of paricipants and institutions have been removed. The names of countries and states are revealed in this transcript. It is our hope that this transcipt motivates communicating more anecdotal evidence in this area and gives rise to intense discussion concerning the topic(s).
Hi Reddit, My name is Michael F. Wells and I am originally from Columbus, OH. Ever since I read the book “The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur” when I was five-years old, I wanted to be a scientist who studied human disease. I recently completed my PhD at Duke University and am now conducting research at the Broad Institute and Harvard University in Cambridge, MA. My work focuses on creating models of psychiatric disease to unravel the mysteries encasing these complicated and debilitating disorders so that one day we may be able to produce safe and effective treatments. I spent the past 6 years in the laboratory of Dr. Guoping Feng at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where I was involved in projects focusing on animal models of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia (SCZ), and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I now work in the laboratory of Dr. Kevin Eggan where I am using human stem cell-derived brain cells to study some of these same diseases. This past week, my work focusing on a new mouse model of ADHD was published in Nature (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature17427.html). In this study, my amazing team from the Feng lab and the Michael Halassa lab (NYU) removed a gene known as Ptchd1 from the mouse genome (known as the Ptchd1 knockout mouse). We picked this gene because it has been found to be mutated in approximately 1% of patients with ASD and intellectual disability (ID). These mice displayed several abnormal behaviors including cognitive deficits, grip weakness, disrupted sleep, hyperactivity, and attention deficit. Importantly, we found that Ptchd1 is expressed in a part of the brain known as the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN), which acts as an “information filter” in the brain. The results of our investigation suggest that this filter is allowing too much information to pass through to other brain regions in this mouse. Importantly, we were able to show that these TRN defects were contributing to the hyperactivity and attention-deficit behaviors, both of which are hallmarks of ADHD. Finally, we successfully fixed these ADHD-like behaviors in mice using a drug known as 1-EBIO, which targets an ion channel that we found to be dysfunctional in Ptchd1 knockout mouse TRN cells. It is important to note that 1-EBIO is not meant for use in humans, so much more work needs to be done before we can translate these findings to a safe and effective treatment for humans. Are mice valid models for human conditions? How do you assess these human-like behaviors in mice? What is the future of disease modeling? I will start answering these questions and more around 1pm (10 am PST, 6 pm UTC) and will stick around until you get tired of listening to me. Edit: OK I’m starting early because I am the captain now. Let’s do this. Edit #2 (1:47pm): I had some technical issues. They are resolved now so I am back. Edit #3 (2:44pm): I am staying until you kick me out. If you have to leave, however, and want to continue the discussion, you can follow me on Twitter @mfwells5 Also, my collaborators and I have set up a Gmail account to answer Ptchd1/TRN questions: [email protected] Final Edit (6:50pm): Thanks everyone for your amazing questions. I answered as many as I could before my stem cells started crying for their daily feeding. Feel free to reach out to me if you have any additional questions. It was fun–see ya!
Hello, my name is Dr. Yogi Goswami, I am the inventor of Photo-electrocatalytic technology for disinfection and detoxification of air. I am a Distinguished Professor and Director of the Clean Energy Research Center at the University of South Florida and Chief Editor of Solar Energy, the International scientific journal. I’m currently developing the world’s first molecular air purifier, capable of neutralizing any organic indoor air pollutants, such as bacteria, viruses, mold and Volatile Organic Chemicals in the air with a level of speed and efficiency never seen before. This is a pretty big and exciting breakthrough, and I’m looking forward to answering your questions! AMA! Proof: http://imgur.com/WnqwD9i Thank you to everyone who participated, I’m signing off now. It was a pleasure conversing with you all! Feel free to message me directly for more information. For information on my solar energy work, check out: http://cerc.eng.usf.edu/ For the air purification device am working on, check out: http://molekule.com/ Thank you for being such great participants. You are a great community! Cheers!
Hi Reddit! I’m Jonathan Sakkos, a mechanical engineering PhD candidate. I’m a member of the Bioencapsulation Laboratory in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the BioTechnology Institute at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I study bioencapsulation (physical confinement) of bacteria within porous silica gels for cleaning pollutants from water in collaboration with Professor Wackett in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Biophysics. Bacteria have a wonderful ability to eat many harmful chemicals (especially hydrocarbons) found in water as a result of millions of years of evolution. I study the interface between the biology and the material as well as the diffusion of chemicals within the material in order to harness the unique abilities of bacteria in an efficient manner. We recently published a paper in Biotechnology and Bioengineering entitled “Engineering of a silica encapsulation platform for hydrocarbon degradation using Pseudomonas sp. NCIB 9816-4” in which we encapsulated a bacterium which is known to biodegrade (eat) over 100 pollutants and optimized the material to be as strong and porous as possible while keeping our bacteria happy . Our lab has also studied the biodegradation of atrazine, a very popular herbicide, by encapsulated bacteria. I’ll be here at 1 pm ET (10 am PT, 6 pm UT) to answer your questions. Ask me anything about bioencapsulation and what bacteria can do for you! 3 pm CDT: I have some lab work to do, but I’ll check back later this afternoon. Thanks for all of the thoughtful questions. 6 pm CDT: I’m signing off. This has been fun and thanks for the great questions!