October 12, 2012

What Underlies Resilience
Today, scientists in the field are searching for the biological factors involved. Some have found specific genetic variants in humans and in animals that influence an individual’s odds of developing PTSD. Other groups are investigating how the body and brain change during the recovery process and why psychological interventions do not always work. The hope is that this research might lead to therapies that enhance resilience. (Virginia Hughes, Nature)

Biased by Past Experience When Making New Decisions
According to new research, the brain’s memory areas link new memories to old associations, providing a roadmap for decision-making we don’t even realize we have. The research, published in the journal Science, focuses on the hippocampus, a region nestled deep in the brain that helps consolidate memories. Scientists have long known the hippocampus links memories and integrates them together, but the new study is the first to look at the region’s role in biasing the brain toward certain choices. (Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience)

Revisiting the Marshmallow Test
A new small study that plays on this experiment suggests that the ability to delay gratification might be impacted as much by the environment as by innate self-control. “Being able to delay gratification—in this case to wait 15 difficult minutes to earn a second marshmallow—not only reflects a child’s capacity for self-control, it also reflects their belief about the practicality of waiting,” the new study’s lead author, Celeste Kidd, a doctoral student at the University of Rochester, said in a statement. (Megan Gannon, LiveScience)

Mouse Thyroid Created From Embryonic Stem Cells
A series of achievements have stoked excitement about the potential of regenerative medicine, which aims to tackle diseases by replacing or regenerating damaged cells, tissues, and organs. A paper in Nature reports another step towards this goal: the generation of working thyroid cells from stem cells. (Dan Jones, Nature)

The Tissint Meteorite and the Origins of Life
Panspermia is quietly becoming a go-to area of study for astronomers and astrobiologists, and a new paper published in Science is a very good example of what the field is doing. A team of investigators got their hands on a few bits of a Moroccan meteorite—known as the Tissint meteorite for its mineral composition—and subjected it to both mineralogical and chemical analyses, and while no traces of bacteria were found (and none were expected to be found) the scientists did learn more about what it would take for such a planetary tissue exchange to occur. (Jeffrey Kluger, TIME)

Are Skeptics the New Religious?
Philip Clayton: In my experience, most skeptics today are not dogmatic atheists or jaded cynics, though some are. Most are seekers. They include Caltech geeks but also a large swath of Americans who—looking at our improved scientific understanding, changing social norms, and increasingly pluralistic religious culture—have decided that many rigid doctrines of the past are just no longer credible. (Religion News Service)

Category: Field Notes

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